Musical Theatre Major Balances “Newsies” With National Performance Opportunity

Newsies, actor Noah Tierney

Senior Noah Tierney performs in Nebraska Wesleyan's first Disney musical, Newsies. The musical marks Tierney's 28th production at NWU.

Senior Noah Tierney; Mathew Puckett, composer and writer of "Rebel Genius"

Senior Noah Tierney is pictured with Mathew Puckett, composer and writer of the play, "Rebel Genius." Tierney was selected to play Albert Einstein in the play as part of the ASCAP Foundation's New Musical Theatre Workshop.

Rebel Genius reading

Tierney works with another cast member of "Rebel Genius" at the ASCAP Foundation's New Musical Theatre Workshop. The national workshop provides an opportunity for composers to work on their creations with hopes of it becoming a Broadway musical.

Noah Tierney, "All Shook Up"

“NWU’s theatre department is where I needed to be to grow and learn all that I have,” said Tierney of his NWU experience.

Newsies, actor Noah Tierney
Senior Noah Tierney; Mathew Puckett, composer and writer of "Rebel Genius"
Rebel Genius reading
Noah Tierney, "All Shook Up"

It’s a balancing act.

Something very familiar to Nebraska Wesleyan University theatre students who at times balance performances of current shows with rehearsals for upcoming productions alongside their other NWU classes.

Senior Noah Tierney knows the importance of striking a balance. He also knows when opportunity knocks, you take the chance.

Tierney, a musical theatre major from Waverly, Neb., is fresh off an experience with the ASCAP Foundation’s New Musical Theatre Workshop, which was hosted this year in Los Angeles, New York City and Lincoln. The workshop draws aspiring musical theatre composers to work on their creation with Oscar-winning composers with hopes of the play eventually hitting Broadway.

Tierney was cast as Albert Einstein in the developing show “Rebel Genius,” a play reviewed at the ASCAP New Musical Theatre Workshop in September. 

Rebecca Boesen, director of “Rebel Genius” and an adjunct instructor in theatre at NWU, reached out to Tierney just days before the audition. It presented him the opportunity to be the first to play the show’s main character. 

“I loved her so much as a professor that I could not pass up the opportunity to work with her in a show, especially something as unique as this project,” Tierney said of his professor.

Tierney was eager to accept the challenge even as he was in the midst of rehearsals for NWU’s first Disney production, “Newsies.” 

Receiving encouragement from his professor and the rest of the talented cast, they set out to workshop three versions of the script and accompanying music. 

Working directly with the production’s writer, Matthew Puckett, Tierney was initially nervous with the stakes that ASCAP held — will they produce it or not? His nerves melted away once the process began. 

“The stress mostly came from if I’m capturing the character in the way that he had intended,” said Tierney. “But he was very supportive in the creative choices made.”

The workshop was a collaborative process, where the opinions of the cast were highly valued in editing and revising the piece. At each rehearsal, the team of actors along with the writer and director worked together to perfect the potential Broadway musical.

“NWU has given me a tremendous amount of confidence in my creative choices, my physicality, and my vocal ability,” he said. “The theatre department here has trained me to stay truthful with those I’m working with and honor what’s in the script, which was seriously important to this process in particular.” 

Now his full attention is on “Newsies,” the 28th show that he’s performed in at NWU. 

“It was mostly a challenge of conserving energy for both shows, both vocally and physically,” Tierney said of balancing both plays. “Being memorized wasn’t a requirement for “Rebel Genius,” but our off-book day for “Newsies” came very quickly, so it was definitely a struggle to find the time to work on that. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working on both at the same time; it’s been a very welcome change of pace.”

“NWU’s theatre department is where I needed to be to grow and learn all that I have,” he added. “I didn’t fully understand the business of professional theatre. However, I feel very much prepared to enter that world now thanks to the theatre classes I’ve taken and the productions I’ve been a part of.”

And if opportunity knocks again —especially in New York City — he’ll be ready.  

“The creative process can be demanding and strenuous in so many ways,” said Tierney. “The most important thing is to connect with the wonderful people sharing the process with you and have fun with the incredible stories that I have the opportunity to tell.”

—Story by Danielle Anderson, public relations intern