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story.lead_photo.caption Cast members act on stage during the Pleasant Grove Curtain Call Production's opening performance of the Broadway musical "Newsies." Photo by Kelsi Brinkmeyer / Texarkana Gazette.

TEXARKANA, Texas — Pleasant Grove High School's Theatre Department has been performing "Newsies," a 1992 American musical film produced by Walt Disney Pictures, with limited audience capacity since Thursday night, and they aren't done yet.

The musical showcases grades 6-12, with grades 10-12 leading. They opened Thursday night, with an audience capacity of 350, and performed in front of PG Middle School Friday morning. They also performed Friday night.

Normally, there would be around 1,000 people watching, but that number was lowered to 350 to allow for social distancing.

Theatre Director Debby Sutton said the students have gotten better with every show.

"It's a cool thing to watch kids have those light bulbs go off," she said. "They have those light-bulb moments where they get it and understand it. We can explain it to them all day long, but until you have that energy coming back to you from the audience, you don't understand the connection between the performer and the audience."

With "Newsies" being well known for its dancing, Sutton deferred credit to choreographer Tiffany Beck.

"She has outdone herself with this show," she said. "I sit in the back and watch it, and I am just amazed that that's our kids."

Sutton said students have taken their COVID plans and protocols very seriously after seeing last year's seniors have to cut their competition season short because of the pandemic.

From left, Clay Jones, Caurie Beck and Michael McNeal, playing Jack Kelly, Les, and Davey, act on stage during the Pleasant Grove Curtain Call Production's opening performance of the Broadway musical "Newsies."
Photo by Kelsi Brinkmeyer/Texarkana Gazette.

"That was very hard for those seniors who didn't get to complete what they had worked on for four years," she said. "My seniors coming in this year said, 'Ms. Sutton, we'll do whatever we have to do.'

"They'll look at each other and say, 'Hey, put your mask on, because we want to perform.' We have probably used four trailer loads of hand sanitizer and an untold amount of Lysol and Lysol wipes."

The Theater Department has been working on and observing this show since May, and Sutton said they are still entertained by it.

"The kids are doing such a phenomenal job," she said. "We literally gave them Mount Everest to climb during a pandemic, and they said, 'Hand me a pick, I'm going up.'"

(The next performance is 7 p.m. Saturday at Pleasant Grove High School's Performing Arts Center, 5406 McKnight Road. It is open to the pubic with no reserved seating. The last performance of the weekend will be 3 p.m. Sunday.)

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