WATERVILLE — Corrina Franzose stepped up to the edge of the Waterville Opera House stage, waited for her musical cue, and sang her heart out:

“It’s fine life, carrying the banner through it all,” she crooned.

At 14, Franzose has come to love theater so much that she is again auditioning for a show — this time, it’s “Newsies the Musical,”  based on the Disney film, “Newsies” and the true story of the newsboy strike in 1899 in New York City. The show, directed by Debra Susi, will open Nov. 8.

“I auditioned for the part of Race,” Franzose said later, in the lobby. “He is part of Jack Kelly’s gang, his crew.”

A freshman at Maine Central Institute where she is involved in theater and dance, Franzose, of Athens,  sang lyrics from the song, “Carrying the Banner,” for her audition Sunday. She has performed in two shows at the Opera House — “Hello, Dolly!” and “Seussical the Musical” — and was one of dozens of people to audition Sunday for “Newsies…”

Early Sunday afternoon, the Opera House lobby was teeming with boys, girls and teens waiting to audition as adults auditioned onstage before Susi, choreographer Adam Blais and musical director, Steven Banter.

Seasoned actor Mel Morrison, 64, of Hallowell, was among several men who auditioned for the part of Joseph Pulitzer, a pompous businessman who owns a major New York newspaper and initially doesn’t sympathize with the striking newsboys.

In a strong, clear voice, Morrison sang lyrics from the song, “The Bottom Line,” and then read some lines from the “Newsies…” script.

“Mr. Kelly, if I may speak to you alone,” Morrison said. “I can not put the price back where it was.”

Morrison was reading from the part of Pulitzer, engaging in dialogue with the character Jack Kelly, the charismatic leader of the striking newsboys, played Sunday by Blais. Susi at one point walked to the stage.

“Remember, this is a journey, right?” she said. “And part of this journey is, Pulitzer doesn’t think Jack knows what he’s doing.”

Auditioning was not all nerves and pent-up fear. Many of the actors know each other and have performed together in the past.

Morrison, for instance, has appeared in 17 shows at the Opera House, with his first role being the mayor in the musical, “The Music Man,” in 2002.

“The biggest roles I’ve done include Caiaphas in ‘Jesus Christ Superstar,’ and Mal Beinecke in ‘The Addams Family,'” Morrison said later in the lobby. “Last year I was in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and ‘Hello, Dolly!'”

A 1973 Cony High School graduate where he was in chorus and appeared in variety and minstrel shows, Morrison performed with the Indian River Players in Melbourne, Florida, attending the Florida Institute of Technology. He returned to Maine and was part of the Augusta Players and was in the musicals “Oklahoma!” and “South Pacific” with Birdie Katz. After a 20-year hiatus from theater to have kids, he returned in 1999 to work with the Portland Players.

“I did ‘The Secret Garden’  and that got me into theater again and I haven’t stopped since,” he said.

A banker for many years before doing accounting for a car dealership, Morrison said the most rewarding part about being in theater is performing for a live audience. One may have preconceived notions about what an audience will think of a performance, but the result may be very different, he said.

“I don’t think there’s anything quite like it,” he said of performing live. “The audience always surprises you. I think you feel their love for you. The other part of it is, the cast really bonds. It’s like a family.”

Michelle Sweet, assistant executive director at the Opera House, said auditions will continue at 6 p.m. Monday.

Morrison would love to land the part of Pulitzer, which requires singing and memorization of many lines.

“I think I can sing the part, I think I can act the part and I can be made to look the part,” he said.

But asked if he thinks, after Sunday’s auditions, that he got the part, he laughs.

“I don’t think you ever want to think you got the part,” he said. “You don’t know who’s going to audition Monday night. So I never think that — never,” he said.

Like Morrison, Franzose says there’s nothing like being involved in theater.

“I love the dance, specifically the tap in the show,” she said. “I love tap, I love dance in general, and musical theater as a whole. The Opera House — it feels like I’ve done 20 shows. The camaraderie is amazing, unlike anything else I’ve ever done. Whether you’re working with tech, stage managing, directing or working with fellow actors, everyone’s so nice and kind, and that’s why I love it here.”

To top it off, Susi is a wonderful director and it is a privilege to work with her, according to those auditioning.

“Deb has a great vision,” Morrison said. “What she does is, she looks at every scene and paints this mental picture of what she wants it to look like and she relays that to you and it’s always about the image. The big thing is, what does the audience see? She doesn’t work you hard on the lines, she works you hard on the picture that she’s trying to paint. She’s a master.”

Tony Gerow, 31, the Opera House technical director, decided to audition for the part of Jack Kelly. Gerow saw the last performance of the original “Newsies…” in Los Angeles in 2013, he said. A performer with the Young Americans from 2009-14, Gerow has done a little of everything — acting, dancing, singing. A Bangor native, he also performed with the Robinson Ballet in that city.

“Newsies…” will run at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 8, 9, and 15; and at 2 p.m. Nov. 10, 16 and 17.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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