Stage Talk by Carol Viescas
‘Disney’s Newsies’ — UTEP Dinner Theatre, in the UTEP Student Union West building, presents the hit musical based on the Disney movie through Feb. 10 (check for possible extended dates) with Tony Award-winning score by Alan Menken and Jack Feldman, and book by Tony Award winner Harvey Fierstein. Show time is 7 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday; non-dinner matinees are Sunday 1:30 p.m. Feb. 3 and 10; dinner matinee is 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 27. Tickets: $33.50 to $43.50 Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday discount dinner performances; $36.50 to $48.50 (Friday and Saturday dinner performances), and $19.50 to $29.50 no-dinner matinee performances (Ticketmaster). Information: 747-6060 or utep.edu/udt.
Set in turn-of-the century New York City, “Newsies” tells the rousing tale of Jack Kelly, a charismatic newsboy and leader of a band of teenaged “newsies.” When titans of publishing raise distribution prices at the newsboys’ expense, Jack rallies newsies from across the city to strike for what’s right. Featuring many now classic songs including “Carrying the Banner,” “Seize the Day,” and “Santa Fe.”
‘The Crucible’ — Las Cruces Community Theatre, 313 N. Main in the Las Cruces Downtown Mall, presents the Arthur Miller play Feb. 1-17. Directed by Norman Lewis. Performances are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets: $15 ($12 students, seniors and military; $11 groups of 10 or more, $10 children under 12). Information: (575) 523-1200 or lcctnm.org.
A young servant-girl maliciously causes the arrest of a young farmer’s wife for witchcraft. The farmer brings the girl to court to admit the lie — and from there the monstrous course of bigotry and deceit is terrifyingly depicted.
Playhouse auditions — El Paso Playhouse, 2501 Montana, hosts auditions for “Peter Pan” Sunday Monday, Feb. 3-4. Show runs May 3-19. Call for audition times: 532-1317 or elpasoplayhouse.com.
‘Always a Bridesmaid’ — El Paso Playhouse, 2501 Montana, presents the comedy about four friends have sworn to keep the promise to be in each other's weddings…no matter what Feb. 8-24. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $15 ($12 seniors 62+, students, military; $9 12 and younger). Information: 532-1317 or elpasoplayhouse.com.
‘Heartbreak Hotel’ — Burlesque on the Rio presents their take on Hollywood 8 to 11:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 8, at Touch Bar & Nightclub, 11395 James Watt, with guests Darlina Marie of M.O.D. tribal and Mindy Chanson of Pasithea Dance Co., and the headliner Kitten DeVille from Los Angeles. Tickets: $10. VIP tables are $100; includes treats, one bottle of champagne, and four chairs. Additional chairs available for $10 each (limit six per table). Information:burlesqueontherio.weebly.com.
‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’ — No Strings Theatre Company presents the Tony, Olivier and Drama Desk Award-winning play by Simon Stephens based on the novel by Mark Haddon through Feb. 10 at Black Box Theatre, 430 N Downtown Mall, in Las Cruces. Directed by Ceil Herman. Performances are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., 2:30 p.m. Sunday Feb. 3 and 10; and 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 7. Tickets: $15 ($12 students and seniors over 65; $10 all seats Thursday. Reservations: (575) 523-1223. Information: no-strings.org.
This story follows 15-year-old Christopher solving the mystery of who killed the neighbor’s dog.
‘Shakespeare in Love!’ — El Paso Community Foundation’s Jewel Box Series presents veteran members of the Shakespeare on-the-Rocks theater company performing as their outreach group, Shakespeare on-the-Run at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 10, at the Philanthropy Theatre (next to the Plaza Theatre). Tickets: $16 (Ticketmaster). Information: 533-4020 or epcf.org.
In honor of Valentine’s Day, the group play homage to the Bard’s most memorable couples, including innocent Juliet and her Romeo, iron-willed Cleopatra and Marc Antony, rebellious Katarina and Petruchio, and feisty Beatrice and Benedict.
The next performance in the series is March 10 featuring soprano singer-songwriter and classical guitarist Jaimelynn Amato, “the Songbird of El Paso.”
‘The Vagina Monologues’ — Star on the Mountain Production Company presents the Eve Ensler production 7:30 to 10 p.m. Thursday and Friday, Feb. 14-15, at Hyatt Place, 6030 Gateway East, and Saturday, Feb. 16, at Seven Gods Entertainment, 3400 Fort Blvd. Proceeds benefit La Mujer Obrera. Admission: $10. Information: staronthemountainep.weebly.com.
‘A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant, and A Prayer’ — Star on the Mountain Production Company presents the Eve Ensler play at 7:30 to 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Feb. 21-23, at Seven Gods Entertainment, 3400 Fort Blvd. Proceeds from benefit Borderland Rainbow Center. Admission: $10. Information: staronthemountainep.weebly.com.
‘Silent Sky’ — American Southwest Theatre Company presents true story of New England astronomer Henrietta Leavitt Feb. 22-March 3 at NMSU’s Center for the Arts in Las Cruces. Written by Laruen Gunderson and directed by Claudia Billings. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Friday and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Tickets: $17 ($14 seniors; $10 students; $5 high schools students with current I.D.) Tickets: (575) 646-41420 or nmsutheatre.com.
Leavitt leaves the comforts of her rural home for the Harvard Observatory, Her ambition leaves both her family and her new colleagues perplexed. But with a single discovery, their views of themselves, each other, and the universe itself will be upended for all time.
‘A Western Ode’ — Mesilla Valley Dance Eclectic presents its original family-friendly show inspired by story elements of the epic poem, “The Odyssey” 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 23-24, at the Black Box Theatre, 430 N. Main in the Las Cruces Downtown Mall. Tickets: tktassistant.com. Information: mesillavalleydance.com.
Follow the adventures of a girl who left home to move out west for a better life, is forced to navigate through a long series of wanderings and hardships to make her way back home. Original choreography by the members of Mesilla Valley Dance Collective tell a story through genres of dance ranging from classical ballet to modern dance.
Kids-N-Co. classes — Kids-N-Co. offers acting classes geared towards ages 5-15. Classes are 3:30 to 5 Saturdays, taught based on experience and level, not age group. Through the use of monologues, duet scenes, and group scenes, students work to build each other up to the next level based on their individual needs. Class dates for Session 3 are March 23-June 1. Tuition: $200. Information, location: 274-8797 or on Facebook at El Paso Kids-n-Co.
Disney’s ‘Newsies’ based on real story
When people hear Disney musical, they think of classics like “Beauty and the Beast” or perhaps “Lion King.”
A more contemporary show like “Newsies” doesn’t seem like typical Disney fodder, but the award-winning show has one similarity – it’s based on a 1992 Disney movie of the same name. But unlike other more fairy-tale or cartoon Disney movies, “Newsies” is based on a true story.
It creates memorable characters around the 1899 New York City newsboys (and girls) strike. And although it did not win the top prize as best musical, it did win 2012 Tony’s for Best Original Score (by Disney regulars Alan Menken and Jack Feldman) and Best Choreography.
As soon as it was released, UTEP Dinner Theatre grabbed the rights, and its debut in El Paso fell into the capable hands of director Jaime Barba, who has been involved in the El Paso theater scene for almost 30 years working as a performer or designer in basically every theater in town.
“I wasn't really familiar with the show until last summer when we were choosing a season,” said Barba, now Costume Designer for UDT and a lecturer for UTEP Department of Theatre Arts and Dance. “I knew it was a Disney show. I knew some of the songs, but that was about it. I found out the rights were just released, and I saw a clip of the Broadway show, and it piqued my interest. I felt that the UDT should be the first to mount ‘Newsies’ locally. Plus, I thought the design elements of the show would be something challenging (in a good way) for our staff.”
The central character of the tale is charismatic newsboy Jack Kelly, who leads a band of teenaged “newsies.”
“When the titans of New York City publishing, led by Joseph Pulitzer, raise distribution prices at the newsboy's expense, Jack, with the help of new friend, Davey, rally newsies from every borough of New York City to strike for better pay,” Barba said. “In the end, Pulitzer caves in and offers the newsies a better deal.”
The cast is a mix of familiar faces and newer performers.
Derrick Cintron (Paul in last season's “A Chorus Line”) plays Jack Kelly. Jorge Blakely (Mike in last season's “A Chorus Line”; Billy Crocker in “Anything Goes”; Charlie Brown in “You're A Good Man Charlie Brown”) plays Davey. Alyssa Donnelly (Maggie in last season's “A Chorus Line”) plays Katherine Pulitzer. Greg Thompson (Captain Brackett in last season's “South Pacific”) plays Joseph Pulitzer. Jensen Springer (Connie in last season's “A Chorus Line”) plays Les. John Levick (Schroeder in “You're A Good Man Charlie Brown”; Cliff Bradshaw in “Cabaret”) plays Crutchie. And of course, Tanisha Lewis (narrator in last season's “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”) is playing Medda Larkin.
Even with the stellar cast, Barba said the biggest challenge of putting together the show was finding enough men for the male-heavy cast.
“Luckily, after some research, I learned that there were newsies who were girls. So, I was able to fill the holes in the cast with talented ladies who will be playing some of the newsie roles.
“The second challenge was getting large moving sets and that fantastic choreography on our ‘intimate’ stage. I think Mike Spence and the set construction crew did an excellent job getting everything we needed onto out little stage. The choreographers Josey Pickett and Betsey Tinajero also did great work in creating choreography that fits onto our stage. The dance numbers are fantastic.”
Barba said he believes the audiences will be entertained.
“The performances are great. The sets, costumes, sound, music, choreography and lighting are great,” he said. “Many times, I think our regulars are unsure about a newer musical. You know, something that is not a ‘West Side Story’ or ‘Cabaret.’ Although, ‘Newsies’ is a fairly new musical, it has all of the elements of a classic musical, but it has an edge to it. I feel our regular audiences, although not familiar with the title ‘Newsies,’ are going to love it.”
Carol Viescas is a veteran of
community theater and teaches
journalism at Bel Air High School.
UTEP Dinner Theatre presents “Disney’s Newsies” through Feb. 10 (check for extended dates). Information: 747-6060 or utep.edu/udt.
Feature storyCopyright 2019 by Cristo Rey Communications.
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