Burnaby-raised rising star acting in Under the Stars production of Newsies

Caleb Lagayan is also shipping off to the U.K. for a prestigious theatre school, one of 13 globally to be admitted this year

Caleb Lagayan is having a good summer.

The 21-year-old, who grew up largely in Burnaby, will soon be shipping off to the U.K. for a spot at a prestigious theatre school, but not before playing a role in a Theatre Under the Stars production of one of his dream plays in Stanley Park this summer.

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Lagayan is playing Race, a tough guy with a soft spot for front page news – particularly, being on the front page of the news – in Disney’s Newsies, one of two Theatre Under The Stars productions this summer (the other being Mamma Mia!).

The two-and-a-half-hour play follows an 1899 strike of newsboys after newspaper owners raised the distribution fees at their expense. It started as a Disney film before becoming a Tony Award-winning Broadway musical.

The role of Race, Lagayan said, is a major departure from his own personality – “no one would see me really as a tough guy. I’m very open and very outgoing,” he said.

“I get to play a lot of characters that aren’t myself, which is super fun because it’s just so much better not to play yourself on stage. It’s more entertaining for yourself; it’s more entertaining for an audience.”

He’s also understudying all male lead roles in the play so he can take on any of the roles if need be. But memorizing all of those roles isn’t too difficult for Lagayan – ever since he saw the show on Broadway at 16 years old, his first Broadway experience, he’s dreamt of a role in Newsies.

“It’s a very high-energy show,” he said. “It holds a very special place in my heart in the sense that it’s in the sense that it was an all-male cast on Broadway that sang, and acted and danced, and it was just very inspiring as a young theatre artist.”

Seeing the play on Broadway, he said, reaffirmed for him that entertainment is “always what I’ve wanted to do.”

Because the play is so high-energy, Lagayan said he’s needed to prepare even more for this play than others in his four years doing Theatre Under The Stars.

“I made sure I cover all of the bases. I make sure that I’m in tip-top shape. This show definitely, it gets the cast fit. Everyone in our cast is really taking care of themselves,” he said. “It’s like boot camp.”

After this summer, Lagayan is heading to the U.K. for the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. Only 13 people around the world make it into his program each year, and for the second round of auditioning, Lagayan had to fly out to New York.

That round comes after people send in taped auditions for the school, which counts Anthony Hopkins among its alumni, and for the second round alone more than 600 people auditioned, Lagayan said.

Lagayan said his goal through the school is to eventually teach performance.

“But me being at the age of 21, I feel like right now a lot of life experience still needs to happen, a lot of performing experience still needs to happen in order for me to be the best teacher that I can be,” he said.

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