The CM Performing Arts Center in Oakdale was several weeks into rehearsals for its live production of Disney’s “Newsies” before director Ashley Nicastro realized her 85-year-old grandfather was a Newsie himself during World War II.

“I had no idea until I started doing this show, and then he told me that,” Nicastro, 26, said. “He told me how he would sit on the corner, and he would wave the paper around.”

Backstage at the CM Performing Arts Center in Oakdale for “Newsies” rehearsals.

Nicastro’s grandfather is the son of Italian immigrants, and he was earning pennies selling daily newspapers on a street corner in Brooklyn to help his family make ends meet during the 1940s.

“It’s really incredible that he’s able to tell me about all of this stuff, as we’re producing the play,” Nicastro said of the “Newsies” production, which opened earlier this month and has performances scheduled through June 8. “It brought a different personal level for me into the production. He was doing all of this, and was trying to help his family out.”

A pair of “Newsies” warm up for dress rehearsal at the CM Performing Arts Center in Oakdale.

Nicastro, who has previously directed “Pippin” at the CM Performing Arts Center, said she has had a blast directing the “Newsies” giant cast of 35.

“It’s just such a fun show. The music is so lively. It’s an amazing score,” she said. “And it’s an inspiring story about the newsboy strike in 1899. Most of these boys were poor, and they really had to rely on each other just to stay safe.

“It’s a story of the underdog coming up and demanding to be heard and wanting a place at the table,” she added.

Click here to visit the theater’s website for the schedule and tickets.