Disney's "Newsies": Extra, Extra...Extra Performance!

Kara Lindsay & The Cast of "Newsies"
(photo: Disney Theatrical Productions)
Special added showing: Mar.4th matinee (tickets on sale Feb.27)!

Extra, extra, read all about it! Stop whatever you're doing and go reserve tickets to one of the two remaining showings of the absolutely thrilling production of Newsies. Recent Fathom Events HD broadcasts of Broadway shows (the fabulous She Loves Me and surprisingly moving Allegiance) have given theater buffs hope for a secure future for this kind of hybrid. On a vastly superior level, Newsies, a collaboration from Fathom Events and Disney Theatrical Productions (hopefully the first of many such events) is a recorded-live musical right from the stage of the venerable Pantages Theater in Hollywood. Based on the 1992 Disney musical film about the real-life Newsboys Strike of 1899, this 2011 live stage version premiered at Papermill Playhouse in New Jersey (where a stage version of Disney's Hunchback of Notre Dame also premiered). It transferred to Broadway in 2012, where it was nominated for eight Tony Awards including Best Musical, and won two, for Score and for Choreography. That Broadway version ran for just over a thousand performances. It was a very unlikely concept for film or stage, written for the screen as it was by two theatrical neophytes, Bob Taudiker and Noni White, featuring a cast of kids in a period piece. Thanks to a star turn by relative newcomer Jeremy Jordan, a creative director in Jeff Calhoun, and the especially breathtaking genius of Choreographer Christopher Gattelli, this was astonishingly wonderful theater, an unqualified hit.

The Cast of "Newsies"
(photo: Disney Theatrical Productions)

Well, maybe a somewhat qualified hit, as the Book by Harvey Fierstein, as the “newsies” might put it, ain't poifect; occasionally somewhat sentimental and simplistic, but then, it is what it was. It begins up on a New York City tenement roof, as paperboy Jack Kelly (Jordan) sings to his disabled buddy (also a newsboy), Crutchie (Andrew Keenan-Bolger) that he hopes to leave New York someday for Santa Fe. Newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer (Steve Blanchard) announces he's upping the cost of newspapers to the “newsies”, forcing them to sell more papers just to get by. This rouses Jack to plan to rebel, but he's trying to avoid a run-in with the crooked Snyder (James Judy), who runs The Refuge, a juvenile jail from which Jack formerly escaped after being caught stealing food. Meanwhile, he's busy painting scenery for his friend performer Medda Larkin (a true Meadow Lark in Aisha De Haas), the proprietress of a vaudeville theater, but notices news reporter Katherine (the spunky Kara Lindsay) reviewing the show, and flirts with her, to no avail. Since Jack isn't comfortable with public speaking, fellow newsie Davey (Ben Fankhauser) rallies the troops to strike and Seize the Day. Crutchie is beaten, captured by Snyder, and sent to The Refuge. Jack, again on the tenement roof, feels guilty yet reprises his dream-of-escape anthem, Santa Fe.

Act II finds Kathryn cheering up the newsies with the front page article she wrote about their strike. They break into song imagining wealth (King of New York), and convince Jack to take the risk of freeing Crutchie. He confronts Pulitzer, who tells Jack he knows about his criminal record, but promises he will ensure Jack's safety from prosecution if he ends the strike, also revealing that he is Katherine's father. Meanwhile, Spot Conlon (Tommy Bracco), the head of the Brooklyn newsies, declares they're in support of Jack's newsies. Jack tries to get them to agree to a compromise by Pulitzer, but they turn their backs on him. He and Katherine declare their mutual trust and love (Something to Believe In), which convinces Jack to reveal Pulitzer's blackmail attempt. With the paper effectively shut down, Pulitzer ultimately agrees to buy back all the papers from the newsies at a profit for them, Crutchie is freed, The Refuge is shut down, and the strike is ended. Jack is offered a job by Pulitzer as a political cartoonist, initially turning down the offer and deciding finally to head for Santa Fe. When Katherine says wherever he goes she will go, he changes his mind, decides she may be in his future, and takes the job as cartoonist. The newsies declare they are now truly Kings of New York.

Kara Lindsay & Jeremy Jordan in "Newsies"
(photo: Disney Theatrical Productions)
This recorded-live production boasts five principal roles played by the folks who originated them on Broadway: Jack, Katherine, Crutchie, Spot Conlon, and Les (Ethan Steiner, in a terrific turn that belies his young age). As a matter of historical interest, Jordan, after seeing the original film version at age nine dreamed that he would someday play the role of Jack (now at the ripe old age of thirty-two); he also appeared as one of the leads in the musical Bonnie and Clyde, as well as Finding Neverland and the television series Smash. This production features a much augmented ensemble cast from the Broadway and National Touring Companies, making the Tony-winning Choreography by Gattelli better than ever, and that's saying a lot: the dancing on newsprint number has to be seen to be believed. The rousing score features Music by Alan Menken and Lyrics by Jack Feldman, with terrific creative team contributions including the Scenic Design by Tobin Ost, Costume Design by Jess Goldstein, Lighting Design by Jeff Croiter, Sound Design by Ken Travis, Original Projection Design by Sven Ortel with Projection Adaptation by Daniel Brodie, Music Direction by James Dodgson and Orchestrations by Danny Troob. It should be noted that the theatrical version added six songs never heard in the film version (which at first failed to catch fire, but became a cult hit on DVD); the present production also includes a touching song written for the National Tour, Letter from The Refuge, sung by the character of Crutchie, and Keenan-Bolger delivers it with tremendous heart. Mention should also be made of the performance by Fankhauser with his memorable voice. But, in the end, it's Jordan as Jack and the Choreographer Gattelli who make this production soar.

The story of Newsies is a timeless one. It has more energy and excitement than a dozen musicals, and seeing it up close and personal, with every line of dialogue clear as glass and every facial expression captured, makes this a must. By all means see it and you too will become a “fansie”, as its numerous followers self-describe their devotion. As the newsies themselves might put it, Carpe Diem. Hey, and that ain't even English, that there's Latin.

Fathom Events will repeat “Newsies” Sat. Feb.18th at 12:55pm & Weds. Feb.22nd at 7:00pm.

No comments:

Post a Comment