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Summer music theater celebrates 45 years

The Rochester Community Schools Summer Music Theater program is celebrating its 45th season this year with a 2018 production of Disney's "Newsies."

The program features students in grades 4-12, who will comprise the cast and crew of Newsies, which was inspired by the real-life newsboy's strike of 1899 in New York City. The story was released as a Disney film in 1992 and became a Broadway musical in 2012.

The Summer Music Theater will run nightly plays at 7 p.m. from Wednesday, July 25 to Saturday, July 28, at the Rochester High School Performing Arts Auditorium. Tickets went on sale Friday, June 29, at

"Summer Music Theater is operated as a professional production from audition through staging and presentation," said JoAnna Pillsbury, program coordinator and Rochester Adams High School theater director. "We invite all the community to join us for this entertaining production."

The summer tradition began in 1973, with the program's inaugural production of "The Sound of Music," under the direction of the program's founder, Timothy Lentz, who taught for 35 years at Rochester Community School and served as Adams High School vocal music director and theater coordinator for three decades. Lentz is now an archivist for Michigan Opera Theater and director of Dance and Opera Resource Library at the Detroit Opera House.

The Summer Music Theater program has helped train many noteworthy professionals for music, theater and the performing arts. Alumni include Nicole Arnold, Rochester Class of 2011, who starred as Mary Poppins in the Chicago national tour; Steve Czarnecki, Adams class of 2005, who toured nationally with “Les Miserables;" Lauren Zarkin, Stoney Creek class of 2007, with the national tour of “Legally Blonde,” played the lead, Sherrie, in the Broadway production of “Rock of Ages,” and most recently was an ensemble and soloist in NBC’s television production of “Jesus Christ Superstar;” and Gabe Gibbs, Rochester High class of 2011, who starred as the lead, Elder Price, in the national tour of “Book of Mormon.” Other noteworthy Adams graduates include Brian Cheney who performs with major opera companies; Leslie Henstock who played Cosette in the National Tour of Les Miserables; and Eric Jackson who played Young Frankenstein on Broadway.

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