by Amanda Schwarze
Fenholt Auditorium at Orono High School will soon be transformed into Catalina Island from 1928.
Students are set to take the stage Nov. 15-16 and Nov. 21-23 in the original musical comedy “Flappers and Fools” written by the Rev. Rick Newswanger, pastor of United Presbyterian Church, Rockford.
The production follows a group of Hollywood professionals who go to Catalina Island, off the southern coast of California, for a working weekend in an attempt to save the career of silent movie star Gloria Blake in the early era of the talking pictures. A young man in the entourage meets a local woman and the musical follows their relationship, which, at the outset, is not very friendly.
“It’s a romantic comedy,” Newswanger said. “It’s mostly aimed at just being fun.”
One of the first inspirations for “Flappers and Fools” came from William Shakespeare’s comedy “Much Ado About Nothing.” After working on the production for a year and a half, the musical has evolved into something pretty different from Shakespeare’s play, Newswanger said.
While writing the musical, Newswanger said he spent a lot of time listening to music from the 1920s and 1930s, such as Cole Porter, for inspiration. He said that some of his favorite authors wrote during the same era, so he was already familiar with the time period.
A Lutheran pastor by trade, Newswanger said he has been writing stories and music since he was a teenager.
“A lot of pastors have hobbies like golf,” he said. “I’ve tried golf, but I’m mostly good at finding large bodies of water.”
Newswanger became connected to the Orono Schools drama department through his son Paul, who has acted in some of the school’s productions during the past couple of years. Newswanger said he thought it would be fun to write something for the department.
Rehearsals are now in full force for “Flappers and Fools,” and Newswanger said that he’s enjoying the process.
“It’s been a really worthwhile experience to work with the kids,” he said.
After working so hard on the production, Newswanger said he’s excited for it to be performed and that he has few worries about opening night.
“If I’m nervous about anything, it’s the Minnesota weather,” he said.
While he’s ready to see his musical performed, Newswanger said he’s not looking forward the final bows of the last show.
“When it’s done, I’m going to miss it,” Newswanger said.
Tickets for “Flappers and Fools” go on sale Oct. 21 for $10.
Contact Amanda Schwarze at [email protected]