“Newsies” Hits the Stage at Traverse City Central

We checked in with Traverse City Central High School Musical Director, Tami Williams, about what it takes to make a memorable opening night before Newsies hits the stage November 16–18.

So, first things first: The drama inside the TC drama world this spring was that both Traverse City high schools chose Newsies for their musical this year.

Yeah, I think looking back it’s not all that surprising. Newsies just came out March 1 for amateur theater, so there are I-don’t-even-know-how-many schools in Michigan doing it. I think, at first, people were a little shocked and felt like this just couldn’t happen or one school would have to pick something else. But after a little time passed, I think everyone just thought, why should one talented group of kids be deprived of doing a great piece of art?

Tami Williams in the center, with her students

And that sort of begs the question of how you put your own stamp on it, right?

Absolutely. And that’s where you start to understand just how many people contribute to making a show that really works on the stage. It’s not just about the script or the musical numbers or the stars. I mean, I recently saw Hamilton with some of my students, and I could have cared less about the lead roles because the ensemble and the chorus were so good. And that’s really what it takes to put on a high-caliber show. Every piece of choreography and every move from someone in the background adds drama to the stage. We’re lucky to have really talented people working with the students on all of that; we even have an amazing group of parents who help us build sets. So with theater, and musicals in particular, it’s about building chemistry within the entire team of people. Audiences are smart and can really tune into that.

And how exactly do you build that kind of synergy?

Well, I think of myself as a teacher-conductor, but I’m a teacher first. We, of course, want to put on a professional show. But our priority is always that the students have a good experience and that we’re helping them develop their talents—which takes building trust and solid relationships and a positive working environment. Music does so much for us as human beings, but a big part of that is being able to be vulnerable and put yourself out there. And if we can help the students do that, it’s much easier for the musical pieces to fall into place.

Get your tickets to Newsies.