It’s 1899 New York City. A gang of underpaid paperboys band together to fight for better working conditions. Among them? Langley musical theatre actress Tiffany Hunter.
The longstanding Vancouver tradition of Theatre Under the Stars (TUTS) returns to the Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park with two new musical productions; the ABBA-filled rom-com Mamma Mia and the Disney-film-turned-Broadway-show Newsies.
The latter is where theatregoers will find 23-year-old Hunter – though they’ll have to look closely. The Aldergrove-born actress plays the role of Mike, one of the paperboys.
“It’s hard remembering to stand like a man,” Hunter laughed. “I’ll be sticking my hips out and then realize I shouldn’t do that.”
Hunter spent her childhood taking gymnastics lessons, a skill she said helped her land the role.
“I’m short so I keep getting cast as orphans and boys. But I’ve been told gymnasts move like a musical theatre man does.”
This is Hunter’s fourth production with TUTS; she debuted with the company back in 2015 as an orphan in Oliver. Hunter followed that production by playing a magic rug in Beauty and the Beast and an ensemble player in Mary Poppins.
Both Hunter’s roles and experience have been increasing steadily over the past four seasons; after graduating from D.W. Poppy Secondary School, she studied a three-year musical theatre program at Capilano University.
“School showed me that I could sing, act, and dance, but it taught professionalism and to take care of our bodies and voices.”
Putting her gymnast skills to the test, Hunter flips and tumbles all over the stage – even over top of a cast member for a very inspired musical number.
“Being a gymnast,” Hunter explained, “I tumble a lot in the show. If I didn’t stretch, I wouldn’t make it through the summer.”
Newsies began as a live-action musical Disney film that starred a young Christian Bale in 1992 and then adapted for Broadway twenty years later.
Based on a real newsboy strike, the musical tells the story of paper publishers who raise their distribution price and are met with an uprising of boys desperate to fight oppression.
“It’s the younger generation rising up and demanding more,” Hunter said regarding the historical setting’s relevancy. “The older generation in the show are resistant to change and eventually come around in the end.”
“The show was based on true events, so it’s interesting to see the parallel of what was happening then and what’s happening now with things like climate change.”
Theatre Under the Stars has been performing outdoors at the Malkin Bowl since 1940 – a fact that Hunter said is never lost on her.
“It’s super fun. There’s an eagle’s nest in a nearby tree and when you notice the sun starts setting earlier in the summer… and then there’s the audience sitting on the hill… it’s such a great opportunity.”
Stanley Park may sound like a lengthy drive for some, but Hunter says outdoor theatre is worth the trip.
“It has a high production value. You don’t always get professional theatre in Langley,” Hunter said. “And then being outside – Stanley Park is beautiful. It’s a night out in nature making great memories.”
When she is not performing on stage, Hunter teaches tumbling to children at CircusWest – a Vancouver circus arts school.
Running on alternating evenings from July 5 to August 17, people can catch Newsies and Mamma Mia at the Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park.
Tickets are available at www.tuts.ca.
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