It was one tiny picture in a Music Theatre Wichita program, but in that moment, seeing his headshot featured as the lead actor in “Newsies,” things became real for Trevor McChristian.
McChristian, a 2013 Maize High graduate and rising senior at North Carolina’s Elon University, will play the role of Jack Kelly in MTW’s “Newsies,” which opens Aug. 11.
“This is truly a dream coming true, a dream of six or seven years coming now,” McChristian said. “Never did I think it would.”
“Newsies,” MTW’s 2017 season finale, comes amid a surge of popularity for the dance-intensive musical. Earlier this year, a filmed version of the production in Los Angeles was screened in movie theaters across the country (and is coming back for an encore presentation on Aug. 5 and 9 at the Warren East).
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Based on the 1992 Disney movie – which was a commercial flop upon release but has since become a cult classic – the musical version hit Broadway in 2012.
“Newsies” tells the story of a ragtag bunch of newspaper carriers in 1899 New York, who go on strike to stand up to their money-hungry boss, Joseph Pulitzer.
In MTW’s cast, Melissa Steadman Hart, who plays the lead role of journalist Katherine Plumber here, has the most experience with this show. She was a swing in the First National Tour of “Newsies” from 2014 to 2016, covering all of the female roles in the show.
MTW’s production, by virtue of its resident company, will have six female newsies – a stark contrast from the Broadway version, which featured only four women total (plus a swing) in its company, one of whom played a newsie.
“It’s really fun to see these girls that (MTW is) fully capable to use, which is so smart and great,” Steadman Hart said. “It makes sense because in 1899, one of out every 10 newsies was a female.”
This production is a bit of a homecoming for Hal Davis, who plays the dastardly Joseph Pulitzer.
Davis, a Wichita native, acted in the first production Music Theatre Wichita put on – “Man of La Mancha,” in 1972. He was still a student at Wichita State University then.
Davis spent 34 years acting in New York, then the past 10 as director of a music theatre program at a North Carolina university. He moved back to Wichita in 2016.
He said the return to MTW has been “emotional.”
“I was a little nervous, because I hadn’t (acted in a professional production) in 10 years ... and I’m a lot older,” Davis said. “I came in the door thinking I’m very familiar with this place, but I just felt a bit like a fish out of water – but there’s so much love here, and that all starts at the top.”
The choreography in this show is the work of Brian J. Marcum, a former MTW company member last seen here choreographing 2016’s “Mamma Mia!”
The 75-person cast of “Newsies” will be complemented by a 12-piece orchestra, the smallest of MTW’s season.
MTW orchestras always adhere to what the original musical score calls for, and over the years Broadway orchestras have gotten smaller. Being a 2012 release, the “Newsies” orchestra is smaller than, say, a 1982 stalwart like “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” said MTW musical director Thomas W. Douglas.
One change: This show won’t have a traditional Wednesday-night opening. Because no productions are immediately following “Newsies,” that allows MTW to take more rehearsal time, said producing artistic director Wayne Bryan. MTW also did this with past productions of “Les Miserables” and “The Little Mermaid.”
“Whenever we do one of these where we can run a second weekend, that gives us the freedom and permission to ... move those season-ticket holders into the second week,” Bryan said. “Not knowing how this would be technically, we just decided we would go ahead and buy the extra two days of technical time.”
McChristian, the Maize High grad, said he’s already been approached by former teachers and friends excited to see him in “Newsies.”
“From Wichita and from this company itself, I feel nothing but love and support and encouragement,” he said. “It’s really wonderful.”
What: A dance-intensive musical based on the 1992 Disney film of the same name. The musical will be the last of Music Theatre Wichita’s 2017 season.
Where: Century II Concert Hall, 225 W. Douglas
When: 8 p.m. Aug. 11, 2 and 8 p.m. Aug. 12, 2 and 7 p.m. Aug. 13, 7:30 p.m. Aug. 16 and 17, 8 p.m. Aug. 18, 2 and 8 p.m. Aug. 19, 2 p.m. Aug. 20