Cast members of Manatee Players' season opener, Newsies.

Image: Michael Fults

While most theaters may be waiting a few more weeks to launch their 2018-19 seasons, the Manatee Players isn’t wasting any time, becoming the first in the region to produce the stage version of Newsies, opening Aug. 9.

The musical, running through Aug. 26 at the Manatee Performing Arts Center under the direction of producing artistic director Rick Kerby, is based on the 1992 Disney movie of the same title. It was considered a box office flop back then, but still enjoyed popularity among some audiences, and gained more after hitting Broadway in 2012. It’s based on a true story about 1899 newsboys who went on strike against publishers Pulitzer and Hearst for better wages, and it features a cast of mostly young performers, along with character names like Buttons, Elmer, Mush and Specs.

Those dancing newsboys.

Image: Michael Fults

Newsies leads off the Stone Hall theater season; it’s followed by another family-friendly show, Anne of Green Gables, Sept. 13-30 (another area premiere). Also in the mainstage season: Kander and Ebb’s Cabaret (Oct. 25-Nov. 11), the Broadway version of the holiday movie Elf, Elf The Musical (Nov. 29-Dec. 16), Gilbert and Sullivan’s operetta Pirates of Penzance (Jan. 10-27, 2019), Mary Poppins (Feb. 14-March 3), the Fats Waller musical revue Ain’t Misbehavin’ (March 21-April 7), and the musical version of showman P.T. Barnum’s life, Barnum (April 25-May 12).   

Meanwhile, over in the center’s smaller Kiwanis Studio Theatre, the Action through Acting series (partnering with nonprofits that deal with issues raised in the plays) commences Aug. 23-Sept. 9 with the one-woman show about sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer, Becoming Dr. Ruth. Calendar Girls (running Oct. 18 through Nov. 4) centers on a group of female friends who agree to pose nude for a calendar for a good cause. Also coming up: A Christmas Carol (Nov. 29-Dec. 16); Oh Freedom! (Jan. 24-Feb. 10, 2019), which tells the story of the Underground Railroad; Into the Night, a world premiere about life with Down Syndrome (Feb. 28-March 17); and Bruce Norris’ award-winning Clybourne Park (April 4-21), a sequel (of sorts) to A Raisin in the Sun.

For tickets and more info, call 748-5875 or visit manateeperformingartscenter.com.

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