Extra! Extra! Read all about it!
Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Two local stage legends take to the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre stage in Disney’s “Newsies!”
That is what real “newsies” used to do, back in the 1890s in New York City. Young immigrant boys or orphans would stand on street corners of the Big Apple yelling at passers by to try and sell their newspapers. Back then, there were no child labor laws, and the labor that went with being a newsie was rough and tough, with meager wages. Some boys had to choose whether to pay to eat or pay to sleep as they roamed New York City.
In 1899, those young news boys went on strike, creating a tidal wave of change in the realm of child labor laws, and the world of newspaper deliveries. This was the inspiration behind the now well-known musical.
That song and dance has long since past, and the new song and dance is Chanhassen Dinner Theatre’s rendition of the Disney musical “Newsies” which has some familiar faces in the cast.
Both Brett Pederson, son of Duane and Jessica Pederson of Wells, and Joey Miller, son of Clay and Sharyn Miller of Wells, are United South Central School alumni. Pederson graduated just a few years ago, while Miller graduated in 2009.
For both USC men, theatrics, song, and dance have run deep in their blood.
Pederson recalls his first production in second grade where he played Tiny Tim in “A Christmas Carol,” and, ironically enough, Miller played the same role in his first production during a different year.
Altogether, Pederson was in 14 USC productions including playing the part of Ren in “Footloose,” Lucas in “Addams Family,” and Tommy in “Brigadoon,” while Miller performed in 18 USC productions and thoroughly enjoyed playing the parts of Joseph in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” Beast in “Beauty and the Beast,” and Puck in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
Pederson is currently attending the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities and is studying music and dance. Pederson says he has always enjoyed dancing, and began his passion for dance at just five years old.
His nearly 20 years of experience dancing has paid off for him at his first production at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre. Pederson’s exquisite form and powerful body structure was a superb opportunity to become the “Newsies” poster boy. Pederson can be seen anywhere from online, to billboards, even a Chanhassen Dinner Theatre vehicle.
Miller graduated from Viterbo University in 2013 with a bachelor of fine arts degree in music theater, he also just recently became a massage therapist with CenterPoint Massage and Shiatsu.
For Miller, the Chanhassen experience seems like a second home and says it is a joy working with the performers there.
“I have been going to Chanhassen since I was seven years old,” he says. “My first show there was Beauty and the Beast. I was a replacement and learned the show in six hours.”
For Pederson, this is his first experience on the Chanhassen stage and says it has been a great experience.
“I have loved my experience at Chanhassen so far,” he says. “The audition for ‘Newsies’ took place last summer, and by the end of summer I had been cast. I could not wait to get started. Rehearsals were pretty intense and quick, but that’s when I really started to get to know the rest of the cast. We are having so much fun working together, and I can already tell I have made some lifelong friends in this show.”
There are some differences between USC’s stage productions and Chanhassen, of course. Pederson says it was something to certainly get used to.
“There is someone covering every little thing here, even behind the scenes, and that’s something we kind of had to get creative with at USC,” he says.
“The commitment level is much different,” says Miller. “In high school, we did three shows and that was it. We will do ‘Newsies’ almost 250 times. Everyone on stage does this for their career. It’s a full time job.”
Both Pederson and Miller attribute their successes elsewhere, like Chanhassen, to their alma mater’s productions, which included the direction of Miller’s father, Clay Miller.
“These young men are showing the talent that southern Minnesota has to offer,” says Kris Howland, Public Relations Director for Chanhassen Dinner Theatres. “And they are showing that men can dance, too.”
Dance has always been close to Pederson and Miller’s hearts. Pederson hopes to take after his role models like Ryan Steele, American dancer and actor, who also played on the Broadway production of “Newsies,” as well as Ben Cook, another well-known American dancer and stage actor.
While Miller hopes to achieve stage goals to the likes of Scott Graham and Peter Hogget with Frantic Assembly, as well as famous Czech dancer and contemporary choreographer Jiri Kylian.
Both USC alumni have always had a passion for the stage and enjoyed the theatric atmosphere. They both encourage students to be a part of school theater productions.
“Theater is the best way to train empathy,” says Miller. “Teaching youth to step into the life and circumstances of someone who is different from them is not only important in building community, but also in building collaboration skills.”
“I think it’s important for students to be involved in theater because it is such a fun, welcoming community. You don’t need to be serious about it; it is a good way to meet people and try something new,” says Pederson.
If you would like to see the astounding choreography, unforgettable songs, and familiar faces of Disney’s “Newsies,” it is on the main stage at Chanhassen Dinner Theatre until Sept. 29.