Park City High School’s ‘Newsies’ was the most nominated musical in the state |

Park City High School’s ‘Newsies’ was the most nominated musical in the state

Theater department wraps up busy season

Park City High School Theater students welcome new members in a ceremony held last week. The department’s production of “Newsies” was the most nominated high school musical in the state this year by the Utah High School Musical Theatre Awards.
Courtesy of Karla Olson

The Park City High School drama and theater department just wrapped one of its biggest years, as seen by the accolades it received from the Utah High School Musical Theatre Awards, hosted by the Utah Festival Opera & Musical Theater in Logan earlier this month.

The department, led by Krischelle Hansen, received 10 nominations, the most for a high school musical in the state, for its fall production of the Tony Award-winning musical “Newsies,” which ran Nov. 17-19.

The nominations were as follows: 

  • Best Actor, JT O’Reilly senior
  • Best Cameo, Payton Bullett, Treasure Mountain Junior High School eighth grader
  • Best Choreography
  • Best Director
  • Best Scenic Design
  • Best Lighting Design
  • Best Ensemble
  • Best Musical
  • Best Orchestra
  • Best Technical Crew, which it won

“All of these nominations and the win means my team put together a fantastic show,” Hansen said. 

“All of these nominations and the win means my team put together a fantastic show.” Krischelle Hansen, Park City High School drama/theater head

“Newsies” is inspired by the real-life Newsboys Strike of 1899 in New York City, and the musical is based on Kenny Ortega’s 1992 Disney film that features music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Jack Feldman.

The theatrical production debuted in 2011, and won Tonys for Best Choreography and Best Original Score.

“While every school walked away with some award, the fact that we had so many elements to get nominations for was just amazing,” Hansen said.

The idea to present “Newsies” as Park City High School’s fall production was inspired by the students, according to Hansen.

“I had a lot of talented senior boys, and to have a lot of boys in a theater program is a rarity,” she said. “I also had an incredible set of young women who sang alto. And when you think about things historically, there weren’t only newsboys. There were newsgirls as well. So it was kind of a no-brainer.”

Hansen also likes the theme of the musical’s story.  

“It’s incredibly powerful from a workers standpoint,” she said. “It’s about banding together and working to overcome the bigger obstacle. And because the cast is supposed to be all kids, it is easy for high school students to understand the theme and think about it from their own mindsets.”

“Newsies” was only a part of the theater department’s successful season, Hansen said.

“Although the fall production is the only one we really submit into competition, we did take our production of ‘King Lear’ to the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s Shakespeare Competition in October,” she said. 

Hansen also planned to take a one-act, “The Internet Is Distract–OH LOOK a Kitten!” by Ian McWethy, to the Utah High School Activities Association. 

“Unfortunately our schedules didn’t line up,” she said. “So we did a showcase of it.”

The Treasure Mountain Junior High School musical this year was “James and the Giant Peach,” based on Roal Dahl’s children’s book, Hansen said.

“That production was completely done by students,” she said. “They had to sit with me like they were in a job interview, and picked the show. They also went  through contacts with me, and ran the auditions, came up with the design and the choreography.”

Park City High School’s spring production was “Puffs, or Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic,” a 2015 original play written by New York-based playwright Matt Cox.

“It’s a very off-brand take of Harry Potter that doesn’t cross the copyright line, and the script tells you what you can or can’t say,” Hansen said. “The Puffs is Hufflepuff House, and the other houses are the Braves, the Smarts and the Snakes.”

One of the last productions, aside from the theater department’s annual music revue, was Tommy Jamerson’s “You Go Goddess,” Hansen said.

“It’s about Calliope, who in the play is Hercules’ daughter,” she said. “It’s about her overcoming her shy, nervous and awkward self to save her dad.”

During the year, the theater students participated in “24/10,” which is theater that is created and performed in 24 hours, Hansen said.

“The kids get together Friday night, where a writer and director are paired up,” she said. “They have an hour to think of ideas.”

After an idea is set, the writer and director hold one-minute auditions and then cast the roles, Hansen said.

“After that, everyone goes home, and scripts, which are due the next morning, get written that night,” she said. 

The students return to the school Saturday morning to rehearse, and they perform the productions that night.

Another fun program this year was Theatre Roulette, which was performed by Hansen’s productions class.

“The whole class writes 60 two-minute scripts, and then they pick which ones they want to direct and which ones they want to be in,” she said. “The first night of performances, the audience randomly picks 30 of these plays, and the second night we perform the rest.”

Hansen, who has been the drama and theater head for the past five years, said the biggest reward is working with the students.

“It does get hard sometimes, because I’m the only theater teacher in the district, but I get all teared up when the students get up on stage,” she said. “A lot of them don’t have a safe place to be who they are. So theatre is a safe place for them.”

Hansen also enjoys the connections she makes with her students.

“I enjoy getting to know their different personalities, and I enjoy watching them grow as people,” she said

Sometimes the growth comes through self esteem and confidence, Hansen said.

“I have one student who auditioned for one of my junior musicals while he was in eighth grade,” she said “He was so nervous every time he was on stage. He would stand there with his head down and say his lines as fast as he could.”

This year that student is one of Hansen’s seniors who is graduating with national honors.

“He was one of the leads in ‘Puffs’ and he directed ‘James and Giant Peach,'” she said. “He has been incredible in helping in my technical theater classes.”

Technical theater is Hansen’s background.

“I worked for eight years in the industry as a carpenter and scenic before I came to teach,” she said.

Hansen attended and graduated from Snow College and Utah Valley University, before moving to Park City to work at the Egyptian Theatre.

“I started as a stagehand, and then became the in-house stage manager and the assistant to the theater manager,” she said. 

Hansen also was a teacher with the Egyptian Theatre’s YouTheatre program, and worked at the Grand Theatre Company in Salt Lake City. 

“I also worked at the Hale Center Theatre, and worked on the East Coast in Cape Cod for two years doing summer stock,” she said.

While Hansen is proud of her students, she is also grateful for the community’s support.

“Theater is not theater without an audience,” she said. “And I want to thank all the parents and the school administration who support my crazy ideas.”

Hansen also wanted to thank the Park City Education Foundation.

“They have granted us a lot of money that is used to bring people in to help me put together these shows,” she said. “I’m incredibly lucky to be where I”m at.”

Although summer vacation is a few days away, Hansen is thinking about next fall’s production of “Chicago” that is scheduled for Nov. 16-18.

“We’re doing a high-school version,” she emphasized. “I will never put kids in anything they or I am not comfortable performing or watching. So the production will be scrubbed clean of adult content and references. But it will be a showcase of young and talented actors who want to try something new. And I’m excited to introduce it to them.”


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