Rebecca Hanson and “Newsies” have a history.
As a child, she loved the 1992 movie.
“I watched it and I watched it,” she said. “And this is so silly, but I always had this dream that some day I would choreograph this show for theater. And then it magically became a Broadway musical. I was amazed by it, of course.”
So when rights to it became available in March, she asked the Hawaii Children’s Theatre board if they would like to try and get it.
They got it.
Was Hanson happy?
Now, she’s directing it.
“It’s a dream come true for me,” she said.
Her cast of 47 includes 38 keiki, and all are diligently working and committed to the show, Hanson said.
The play opens tonight at Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall and continues weekends through Nov. 25.
“And it’s been really cool this past week seeing it piece by piece come together,” she said. “Everyone is doing their part.”
The musical is based on a true story of a New York City newsboy strike of 1899. They set out to create change for better working conditions, but find the odds and some powerful people are against them.
The Disney musical is based on the 1992 motion picture. It features a Tony Award-winning score by Alan Menken (“Little Shop of Horrors,” “Sister Act”) and Jack Feldman and a book by Tony Award winner Harvey Fierstein (“Kinky Boots”).
It features classic songs “Carrying the Banner,” “Seize the Day” and “Santa Fe.”
Newies is Hanson’s first large-scale musical production. It is described as packed with nonstop thrills and a timeless message, perfect for the family and all audiences.
Hanson has been HCT’s Summer Stars director since 2014. She’s directed “The Wizard of Oz,” “James and the Giant Peach, Jr.,” and this past summer directed “Beauty and the Beast, Jr.”
Her Newsies team includes seasoned theatre professionals including Nina Saraos (musical director), Dolly Kanekuni (producer and vocal coach), Bailey Hutton (stage manager) and Debra Blachowiak (producer).
Veteran Kauai performers featured include Billy Quebido (Jack Kelly), Jessika Montoya (Katherine), Colten Moore (Crutchie) and Ariana Franks (Medda Larkin).
Shows, about two hours, are set for 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are available at the door for $15 adults, $12 seniors/students (children 3 and under are free). Advance tickets will be available for $12 at ticket outlets and from www.hawaiichildrenstheatre.org.
The community is encouraged to support a special benefit matinee performance on Sunday, Nov. 12 for Kauai food banks, with $6 tickets from the cast and at the door with a donation of food or money.
Moore’s character, Crutchie, is best friend of the leader of the strike.
“The big thing for me is actually the Newsies strike itself,” he said. “It was an iconic moment of the labor movement of the late 1800s.”
He likes being part of the reenactment.
“It’s something that we still see the need for, activism, and being agents of change, for our own change and the chance of others,” Moore said. “The message of the show kind of resonates with me on that regard.”
Moore, who was in past productions including “Shrek the Musical,” “The Sound of Music” and “South Pacific,” said “Newsies” is a great showcase of what all ages of local theater can do.
“This is the first show that I’ve been in that really showcased what an ensemble cast of kids can do alongside and in coordination with veteran actors,” he said.
Mia Thompson plays a newsie named Albert. She loves being part of this production because she loves singing and dancing. She’ll be on stage for two numbers.
The play highlights how big a role keiki play in the community — and the world.
“It’s something so much more than a show,” she said. “The show is so important and the powerful message behind it is being acted out by kids.”
Skylar Shim plays a newsie named Jo Jo. The dancing has been hard, she said, but, like Thompson, she loves to sing and dance, so that’s why she came out for it.
And then, there’s the message behind “Newsies.”
“It shows how kids are powerful and when the strike happens, they just made a big impact with how people are treated,” Shim said.
She has worked under Hanson in previous productions and said she’s a terrific director. “Newsies,” she added, is going to be “really good.”
“I really wanted to be in ‘Newsies’ because it’s Miss Rebecca’s first year,” Shim said.
Hanson loves the story that features friendships that get beat up and kicked around but stay together.
“They have to depend on their strong friendships and community to come together to keep fighting for what’s right for the greater good,” she said.
“This show really puts the kids center stage,” Hanson said. “The kids are center stage the whole time, singing, dancing. They are in your face.
“They have worked so hard for this,” Hanson continued. “You’re going to see high-energy, you’re going to see their commitment and dedication and the love that they have for it. It’s going to just shine on stage.”
She admits to being a little nervous, with such a major production in the spacious War Memorial that seats about 1,000. The Puhi theater, where some of her other shows were put on, seats 55.
“I’m always nervous. But that’s what keeps us on our toes, it keeps us aware,” Hanson said.
Bill Buley, editor-in-chief, can be reached at 245-0457 or firstname.lastname@example.org.