Mia Johnson

Mia Johnson, shown here starring in Newsies, strives to be an entertainer like Michael Jackson. (Photo by Laura Durant)

When Mia Johnson saw Newsies for the first time, she knew she had to be a part of it. 

Now the Millennium High School senior is starring in the Valley Youth Theatre’s rendition of Newsies as Medda Larkson, a vaudeville performer and owner of Irving Hall through August 26 at the Herberger Theater in Phoenix. This is her first role with VYT, which is known for alumni like Emma Stone.

“I saw Newsies before I was in it,” said the Litchfield Park resident. “I didn’t think I’d get the chance to be in it. It’s such a challenging show with all the emotion.

“I’m really blessed to be a part of it. I always loved the storyline: the music and the powerful meaning behind the majority of the lyrics.”

Set in turn-of-the century New York City, Newsies tells the tale of Jack Kelly, a charismatic newsboy and leader of teenaged “newsies.” When publishers raise distribution prices at the newsboys’ expense, Kelly rallies newsies from across the city to strike. Based on the 1992 motion picture and inspired by a true story, Newsies features the songs “Carrying the Banner,” “Seize the Day” and “Santa Fe.” Larkson was first played by Ann-Margret on screen and Helen Anker on stage.

“I just like the idea of being able to play characters who aren’t myself,” she said. “I love myself, but I think it’s interesting to take on a persona of someone new and experiment with different makeup and accents. I think it’s really fun to tell a story and have fun with it.”

Mia has been exposed to several forms of art in her 17 years, she said. Because of that, it’s made her college choices difficult

“I don’t have a specific thing I want to major in,” said Mia, who is considering ASU. “There are so many different elements.”

Mia is a nine-year member of the Phoenix Children’s Chorus as well. She recently traveled to Australia to perform at the Sydney Opera House.

“It was phenomenal,” she said. “We were there for quite a while. We did a lot of sightseeing and performed at other places out there. We interacted with the community, too, so we visited host families with whom we had been communicating.”

Mia has one goal in mind for her future.

“I want to be a performer like Michael Jackson,” she said. “I want to be able to sing while doing all the moves on stage. I love how original he was. I love the message he wanted to get across.” 

Newsies

7 p.m. Thursday, August 23, Friday, August 24, and Saturday, August 25; and 2 p.m. Saturday, August 25, and Sunday, August 26

Herberger Theatre,

222 E. Monroe Street, Phoenix

$20.50 to $39.50

herbergertheater.org