Summer Music Theatre Program Celebrates 45th Season

The Rochester Community Schools Summer Music Theatre (SMT) program is celebrating its 45th season with the 2018 production of Disney’s “Newsies.”

Local students in grades 4-12 comprise the SMT 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.

Four actors in costume from the production

RCS Summer Music Theatre program celebrates 45 years with Newsies

SMT “Newsies” will run nightly at 7:00 p.m. from July 25 – July 28, with a 1:00 p.m. matinee on July 28. All performances will be held in the Rochester High School Performing Arts Auditorium, 180 S. Livernois Rd., Rochester Hills. Tickets go on sale June 29 at

“Summer Music Theatre is operated as a professional production from audition through staging and presentation,” said JoAnna Pillsbury, SMT coordinator and Rochester Adams High School theatre director. “We invite all community members to join us for this entertaining production.”

This longstanding community tradition began in 1973, with SMT’s inaugural production of “The Sound of Music,” under the direction of its founder, Timothy Lentz, Ph.D. Lentz taught for 35 years at RCS and served as the Adams High School vocal music director and theatre coordinator for three decades. He is now an archivist for Michigan Opera Theatre and director of the Dance and Opera Resource Library at the Detroit Opera House.

Since its inception, the SMT program has helped train many noteworthy professionals for music, theatre, and other performing arts careers.

Talented SMT alumni include: Nicole Arnold, Rochester Class of 2011, who recently starred as Mary Poppins in the Chicago national tour; Steve Czarnecki, Adams Class of 2005, who toured nationally with “Les Miserables” as the understudy for Jean Valjean and played the lead during the 2018 Detroit performances; Lauren Zarkin, Stoney Creek Class of 2007, who served as the understudy for the role of Elle Woods in the national tour of “Legally Blonde,” played the lead, Sherrie, in the Broadway production of “Rock of Ages,” and most recently was an ensemble 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.

For more information, visit Summer Music Theatre Program.

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  1. Tania Velinsky says

    Your early history of the Rochester Summer Music Theatre is incorrect. The first show in 1973 was “Oliver”, not “The Sound of Music”, starring David Pixley of the Pixley Funeral Home family. And the program was started by Frank Irish, the long-time choir director at Rochester High School. Mr. Irish directed “Oliver!” in 1973, “The King and I” in 1974 (my first show ever), and “The Wizard of Oz” in 1975. Tim Lentz took over the program in 1976 with a production of “Carnival”. A note of interest, one of the cast members of The Wizard of Oz was Madonna Ciccone, now know as the singer Madonna!

  2. My cousin Beth Doublestein was Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. The following year we saw her as Eliza in My Fair Lady.

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