Collin Christiansen (right) practices a scene during rehearsal for “Newsies” on Wednesday, April 24, 2019, at the Nikiski High School auditorium. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Collin Christiansen (right) practices a scene during rehearsal for “Newsies” on Wednesday, April 24, 2019, at the Nikiski High School auditorium. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Nikiski students ‘Seize the Day’

‘Newsies’ comes to Nikiski High School

A diverse cast will put on a two-week production of the musical “Newsies” at Nikiski High School.

The show, which is being produced in partnership with Triumvirate Theatre, will feature actors and actresses from around the peninsula, a handful of performers from the Mat-Su Valley, and special appearance by interim Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Superintendent John O’Brien.

O’Brien plays a “relatively small part” as the mayor of New York City, Triumvirate President Joe Rizzo said.

“About a month ago, we called and asked him to do this,” Rizzo explained. “Then, literally, it must’ve been three or four days later when he was announced as the (interim superintendent).”

Rizzo is the show’s producer, and in his 20th year in the Nikiski High theater program, has seen a lot on stage. This time, Rizzo is welcoming a collection of theater talent from Wasilla and Palmer, including Collin Christiansen and Beau Hagerty as guest directors.

Based on the 1899 newsboy strike demanding fair wages for young newspaper-sellers, Newsies puts a dramatic spin on a historical event in turn-of-the-century New York City. The 1992 Disney movie — a box office flop that later gained popularity as a home video — was transformed into a musical production for Broadway and made its debut in 2012.

Christiansen, Hagerty and Rizzo were all part of a production of “Newsies” put on in Wasilla in February by Triumvirate in partnership with Sims Theatre Production. Rizzo said it was the first-ever stage performance of the show in the state of Alaska.

“After the first week, me and Beau decided we needed to keep this going,” Christiansen said. “It was a super big dream and we made it a reality.”

A Palmer theater veteran, Christiansen, 26, said he and Hagerty joined with Rizzo in helping bring “Newsies” down to the peninsula.

Christiansen plays the role of union leader Jack Kelly, while Hagerty stars opposite him as Katherine Plumber, a young reporter who attempts to tell the story of the newsies’ struggle.

“It takes some very big liberties with the actual factual story,” Rizzo said. “But that doesn’t really matter because it’s entertaining.”

Rizzo said the core group of the cast is from his theater production class at Nikiski High, of which about 24 are in the show. He said there are also additional names from Kenai, Soldotna and outlying areas on the peninsula.

The show features a dynamic storyline and song set list that caters particularly to young talent.

“It’s really a fun musical because it has a lot of tap dancing in it, a lot of acrobatics,” Rizzo said. “It’s a really high-energy show and that’s really attractive for the actors. They get to run around yelling, ‘Strike! Strike! Strike!’”

Christiansen delivers on several occasions with humorous lines and dramatic singing, and said the hook of the play is the social issues that intertwine with each other.

“It’s an emotional roller coaster,” Christiansen said. “You have humor and this story based on a true story, that has a lot of political and social implications all tied in. So you have the humor but also the deep story of the underdog, and that classic story takes you on the roller coaster.”

“Newsies” runs Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. each night, and will return for another two-night showing next weekend.

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