Newsies Stop The World And Broadway!
The Broadway event of a lifetime you have been waiting for has arrived. Yes, Disney’s Newsies, the downright failure musical film from 1992, has been turned into a stage production, finally. After two decades of a cult following calling for such a movement, Disney Theatricals has responded and most certainly delivered. For while I suspected it all along, I can finally say it since I have witnessed it myself on stage; Disney’s Newsies the Musical is Broadway’s Biggest and Best Headline.
Newsies is a new stage musical brought to you by Disney Theatricals that features a score by eight time Academy Award Winner Alan Menken (music) and Jack Feldman(lyrics) with a book by four time Tony Award winner Harvey Fierstein. Newsies has changed a good amount not only since the Paper Mill run in 2011 but also from the 1992 movie it is based on. The team here has extended a lot of the music for the full length production as well as adding a bunch of new songs. Hey, they have even tweaked the story line between the Newsies and Bryan Denton, the news reporter who helps the boys story be heard. They have turned it into a female reporter who now becomes the love interest of Jack Kelly.
Despite all these changes though, the true story of the infamous 1899 newsboy strike against the most famous figures of the world, such as Joseph Pulitzer, still lies true and at heart more the ever in this fabulous stage production brought to by Disney Theatricals. Alan Menken has only made his fantastic and unforgettable score more lively with new tunes through the help of Jack Feldman. Hits such as “Watch What Happens”, “Something to Believe In” and “Once and For All” give this show the anthem feel it has with a new touch of glory. Menken’s music is truly one of a kind and a treasure of Disney. Harvey Fierstein provides a fantastic book and really hits the spot touching upon the heart of the story, the heart of Disney and the heart of this business. “What better place to go to then theatre to escape the bad?” suggests one character. How true and fitting.
Newsies is such a true and unforgettable Broadway musical. Under the direction of Jeff Calhoun, the heart of Newsies seems to be larger then life. The boys fill the stage time after time really grabbing your heart from their first moments on stage to their final bows. It seems as though their movements never end with show stopping number after show stopping number. It keeps the showing moving, lively and never provides a let down. Choreographed by Tony nominee Christopher Gattelli, the choreography is truly unforgettable and hands down needs Tony Award recognition. They could not sing or say an entire word in this production and the choreography alone will have you in awe. Many come wondering what exactly their Newsies experience will be like after Disney’s not so hot run in New York on Broadway in recent years with productions such as Tarzan or The Little Mermaid. Have no fear folks! Disney is back and truly better then ever. It is not only evident they have done their homework this time but also found a piece that truly reaches and connects to a generation. What we have here is a piece that finds its message more true now then before in a society dominated by movements such of those like “Occupy”.
But don’t let the word “Occupy” scare you off now. For despite the harsh reality portrayed in this piece, Newsies the Musical is a true Disney experience and fan friendly no matter what age you are. Besides the classic love story and irresistible tunes, Newsies brings to life more Disney magic then ever before in a totally 21st century way. Newsies is downright incredible and nothing short of fantastic.
Jeremy Jordan, who stars as Jack Kelly, leads the gang and definitely leads with his heart in this incredible production. Having last seen Jordan in Bonnie & Clyde this past winter, I can only say the thing that has changed about him is his passion in performance has gotten larger. He plays the incredible leader defying the odds consistently and not afraid to try something never done before. And even when you think for a minute you have lost him, you know true at heart he knows where he stands and belongs both physically and mentally and follows that. He stands up for what he believes in when the odds are most definitely not in his favor and still comes out on top, but only with the help of his incredible friends.
Opposite we have Kara Lindsay, who plays Katherine, the female reporter for The Sun who isn’t afraid to stand up to names such as Joseph Pulitzer despite the fact that he blackmails her and another fantastic secret I just can’t bring myself to spoil for you. Lindsay is fantastic with incredible acting and vocals through out the entire show bringing to life easily a character the Newsies cult hesitates to embrace until she first appears on stage. For once that happens, you’re sold. Lindsay easily captures your heart and before you know it, you yourself are in love with her and the character she has created for you right before you very own eyes.
Andrew Keenan-Bolger, who stars as Crutchie, grabs your heart as the Newsie with a limp who seems to push through with the odds clearly placed against him. He doesn’t know much about life or dreaming but finds that all easily to learn when surrounded by his friends. Garett Hawe, who usually stars as Albert starred as Davey the night I saw the production, provides a proving story throughout. What exactly does that mean? He isn’t so easily caught up in everything else the Newsies say but he clearly understands right from wrong and follows what he believes in. He does it alongside little brother Les played by Matthew J. Schechter who seems to easily wrangle up all the laughs in this production. Proving as elegant as little kids do, he provides funny when needed and grabs your heart time after time and even brings a tear to your eye.
Shout outs are well deserved to all the adults featured in the piece especially John Dossett, who stars in the production as Joseph Pulitzer. Dossett plays the evil Pulitzer going against everything and anything the Newsies stand for and faces major opposition from all sides. He however refuses to go easily and that is greatly portrayed through his acting. He also provides great vocals in “The Bottom Line”, his song which explains his stance on everything.
As for the fantastic ensemble of this piece, every single name deserves a mention for not one of these boys does more work then another on stage. They are a team. United more then any other and in this for the audience and the passion behind this story. They each have their own solo moment too which makes the show just that much better for not one is more talented then the other. This is a show of talented men who can just about do anything. Whether they are jumping in the air with outlandish tricks, belting their face off or tackling both of these tasks at once (Believe me, they do it!), the Newsies ensemble is the greatest force on Broadway this season.
As for the technical aspects of this production, as previously mentioned, Disney has found magic in a 21st century style with this production. Through an innovative set, designed by Tobin Ost, Newsies consists of 3 major stair/platform units that bring to life various locations, levels and movements through out the entire production. It’s that Disney larger then life feeling with the new less is more touch. Projections, designed by Sven Ortel, fill the set consistently but do not dominate the show. They help bring to life various locations without being the set themselves. Other current Broadway shows should take note of this. Lights, design by Jeff Croiter, are great and used effectively especially during the dance numbers. Bright and lots of side light bring to life that “Broadway” feeling Disney always seems to carry. Meanwhile for scenes and smaller songs, you get quite literally the opposite and some of the most beautiful created visual moments in the show combined with all other elements. Costumes, designed by Jess Goldstein, as period perfect in the sense that they not only are perfect for the period the show finds itself in but also perfect and that is quite just enough to be said. The approach Disney has taken for Newsies in the technical aspects are not only fitting but help market the show as the modern marvel it is.
I’ve mentioned believing a lot in this article and I think that is exactly what this production is all about; Believing. When you are about to try something you never have, when the world is clearly standing against you, when it seems as though everything you know isn’t what is actually is and when you think you have nothing to believe in. And that is exactly what I want you to do for Newsies and yourself, Believe. This is an incredible piece that everyone should experience. Whether you consider yourself a theatre person or not, this is a story everyone can relate to. When the power of belief and passion collide, a story like Newsies is born. I think the society we live in today should not fear recreating such stories. For we see, when enough is enough and people demand change, the world can stop.
Newsies on Broadway is truly an event to not be missed. Thank goodness the production has officially announced an open run and will continue to play The Nederlander Theatre on 41st street on Broadway in New York City. I suggest you not walk but run to experience such magic on the stage. For an experience like this on Broadway nowadays is limited. Check out Luner on Theatre’s Disney Page for all our Newsies Coverage. And for more information, check out the Official Newsies Website. And of course, stick to Luner on Theatre for all your theatre news you don’t only need to but want to know and more!