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New Las Cruces theatre group schedules major musicals

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There’s a new theatre group in town. 

Junk Drawer Productions (JDP) formed in June in Las Cruces and already has a cast, director and live orchestra in place for its first production: “Cabaret,” which begins rehearsals in September and will open in October. And, the nonprofit’s founders are already making plans for a production of “Jesus Christ Superstar” in late March 2020, during the 50th anniversary of that rock opera.

“We’ve gotten a lot of support already,” said Las Cruces musical theatre performer Diane Thomas, the owner of JDP. A performing arts teacher for more than 30 years, Thomas started a K-12 musical theatre training studio and a light opera company in Tucson. In Las Cruces, she has directed and starred in musicals at Black Box Theatre and Las Cruces Community Theatre, including “Sweeney Todd,” “Pippin,” “Into the Woods” and “The World Goes ‘Round.”

“Cabaret” will be her18th musical production. Her “advisory council” includes daughter Nora Thomas Medina, who has also directed and performed in musicals on Las Cruces stages and will direct and choreograph “Cabaret”; and musical theatre veterans Matthew Esqueda and Juli Stevenson, both of whom are in the “Cabaret” cast.

“Cabaret” cast members are a mix of well-known Las Cruces musical performers and several newcomers to the local stage, including New Mexico State University students and staff, Thomas said.

“If you’re a theatregoer in town, you’re going to know many of these people,” she said, “but I like that you’ll also see some new faces.”

“Cabaret” is the “perfect fall show,” Thomas said. “It’s very timely,” Esqueda said, noting that the story includes abortion, the rise of fascism and gay rights. The show is a combination of “really important topics and really great music,” said Nora Thomas Medina.

“Cabaret” performers will arrive at their first rehearsal in September with all their lines and songs memorized, Medina said. That way, it can be ready to open with four weeks of rehearsal and one of tech rehearsal.

Esqueda, who is learning to speak some German, a little French and English with a German accent for his part as the master of ceremonies in “Cabaret,” said he and other cast members are already learning their parts. “We may not be in rehearsal, but we are rehearsing,” he said.

Thomas said one of her goals with JDP is to create another musical theatre opportunity for Las Cruces performers and audiences. She said she picked performance dates in October and late March of 2020 that won’t conflict with musicals at other Las Cruces theatres.

Thomas said she’s hopeful next spring’s JDP production of “Jesus Christ Superstar” can “take advantage of the musicians in this town,” which she said is “filled with amazing contemporary musicians.”

“We need to make opportunities for people,” Thomas said. “We have people here who are quite skilled and quite experienced in what they’re doing.”

Thomas said Junk Drawer was chosen as the name for the new production company because it is a mix of performers with different backgrounds and experiences, musical styles, venues and large-scale and smaller shows.

“Everything is up for grabs,” Thomas said. “Anything will go.”

JDP welcomes volunteers, ideas for upcoming productions and actors, singers and musicians who want to audition for “Jesus Christ Superstar” and other shows the company will produce.

Find Junk Drawer Productions on Facebook, where you can message Diane Thomas. Or reach her at mamarose64@gmail.com.

Mike Cook may be contacted at mike@lascrucesbulletin.com.

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