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Two Westminster High grads write musical about Niagara Falls daredevils

Two recent Westminster High School graduates, Thomas Folderauer and Jacob Oswald, have been working the past several years to co-write the original musical “Niagara,” which they will perform in Finksburg over the next two weekends.

The show focuses on the 13 real-life daredevils who took the plunge and went over Niagara Falls, exploring the reasoning and results of risking one’s life for a chance at riches, glory or self-preservation. The characters recount their tales in the Bridge Street Tavern as they drink, laugh, cry and sing.

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“The idea came to me at the end of senior year of high school,” said Folderauer, who graduated from Westminster High in 2018.

At the same time he was taking an electronic music class, he discovered the story of Bobby Leach, the second person to go down Niagara Falls.

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Although he survived the 1911 plunge, Leach injured his leg 15 years later when he slipped on an orange peel. The leg became infected and eventually gangrene necessitated the amputation of the leg. He died of complications two months later.

“I started researching other Niagara daredevils,” Folderauer said. “There are a plethora of stories waiting to be told, all poetic in their own way.”

The daredevils’ stories occur in several different time periods between 1901 and 2017. Because of this, the show features music styles and genres that will appeal to many.

“That’s part of what’s cool about the show … It incorporates jazz, western, traditional and contemporary music,” he said.

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In addition to co-writing the show and the music book, Folderauer also plays the role of one of the daredevils, George Stethakis.

Finksburg resident Roman Adolfs plays the role of Jesse Sharp, another one of the daredevils who went down the waterfall. Sharp also acts as the narrator of the production.

“Jesse went down the waterfall in a kayak,” Adolfs said. “He was so confident he was going to survive it he made reservations at a nearby restaurant that evening. Sadly, his body was never found.”

The actor said he “loves the show” and explained how incredible it is to work on an original show with the original writers. He added their production “has really come together in a short amount of time,” as rehearsals for this weekend’s performance only began about a month and a half ago.

“I’m very excited for opening night … Truly the show is so good,” he said. “I genuinely think it has potential and I hope a lot of people come out to see it.”

Folderauer said a high school in Connecticut chose “Niagara” as their spring musical and the “kids did a wonderful job,” securing award nominations for best show.

He said so he’s received “pretty awesome feedback” from not only his friends, family and audience members but also his cast.

“It’s very cool to have an audience love your work … But when the actors love it, it’s a sign we’re going in the right direction with it,” he said.

Three years in the making, “Niagara” will make its Carroll County debut, performed by the Well Played Theater company at Geckle Farm Theatre’s outdoor stage in Finksburg. The show will run July 16-18 and 23-25.

All the actors and most of the crew are young people from Carroll County.

Kyle Munro, director of “Niagara,” said working on the show has been a “phenomenal experience” and he encourages people to come out and see it.

“The music and stories are unlike anything you see on stage nowadays,” he said.

The show will last about two hours with a 15 minute intermission. Folderauer mentioned the musical deals with some heavy themes and recommends the production for teens and adults.

Those interested can watch a video interview with the Folderauer along with a bit of content from the show at https://fb.watch/v/afYxXIAou/.

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