By Linda Dillman
The news is good and Hamilton Local Schools actors and crew members want to share it with the public in the Mark Frazier Auditorium when “Newsies” takes the stage March 16 through March 18 at Hamilton Township High School.
The musical is a fictionalized account of an actual newsboy strike of 1899 in New York. It was originally a 1992 film produced by the Disney Company and starring Christian Bale, before it was adapted for the Broadway stage in 2012.
“We chose ‘Newsies’ for many reasons,” said Director Nicky Harter, who is also the school’s media specialist. “It has high-energy dancing and music that is exciting for both the cast and the audience. We also had a group of upperclassmen performers who have been with the drama department a long time and we (the staff) felt that they were ready to be challenged with a more dramatic script/story.”
The cast is comprised of 44 student actors in grades seven to 12, along with 21 stage crew members.
According to Harter, over the last few years, the drama department produced many fairy tale-based shows, such as “Wizard of Oz,” “Peter Pan,” “Shrek,” and “Cinderella.”
“‘Newsies’ is a bit more mature than that,” said Harter. “In television terms it would be like going from a G to PG rating, but it has themes running through it that are relevant—and even important—to younger audiences. The idea of standing up for what is right, even though it is hard, is something that has really resonated with our cast. ‘Newsies’ is based on historical events, so it also opens up an avenue for parents to talk to their kids about the early history of America. But any casual viewer is going to enjoy the music and dance numbers.”
Performances are March 16 and 17 at 7 p.m., and March 18 at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Public ticket sales are available in the high school cafeteria Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 5:30-8:30 p.m., or at the door.
The high school auditorium and performance space was unanimously named by the school board in memory of long-time musical and high school color guard director Mark Frazier, who passed away in 2022.
“Mr. Frazier left an indelible mark on the Performing Arts programs at Hamilton Township,” said Harter. “When we lost him this past August, there was immediate interest to dedicate something in his name, and those who worked closest with him very much wanted that to be the high school auditorium.”
When the current high school was still in the blueprint stage, Frazier worked closely with the administration and builders on the design of the space to ensure the facility was properly outfitted to produce high-quality performances by students.
“Put simply, the Mark Frazier Memorial Auditorium would not look anything like it does without the care and involvement of its namesake,” said Harter, who was originally a member of the high school marching band and drama programs starting in 2003.
Frazier became head of the instrumental music program the year after she graduated from Hamilton Township High School and asked Harter to coach the color guard in his stead. She joined the drama staff in 2019 as the choreographer for “Cinderella,” the year Frazier first became ill.
“I worked on every production thereafter,” said Harter. “He was my mentor and close friend for nearly 20 years, so making the decision to step into the position of director was an easy one. The drama department at HTHS is very dear to me, and it was even more so to him. When he passed, I felt a strong urge to protect it and ensure that it would continue in the standards that he set.”