By Bridget McCarthy ‘17/Emertainment Monthly Stage Editor
With long intermissions and lengthy ballads, one of Musical Theater’s greatest battles is captivating a younger crowd. Getting a child’s attention proves difficult, but keeping that attention is an even steeper slope. Past productions have tried to appeal to adolescent audiences by cutting intermissions and creating short, to-the-point plot lines. However, these dumbed-down shows become less entertaining to adult patrons, and they underestimate a child’s intelligence. But Newsies gives hope for theater-lovers across generations. They have managed to create a production that welcomes youth without sacrificing influential meaning for adults and children alike. Newsies is an entertaining and purposeful musical the whole family can enjoy.
Disney’s Newsies leaped into the Boston Opera House on Wednesday, June 24 with grace and power, an unlikely but successful pairing of adjectives. Number after number the showcase of talent escalates, each jump and note going higher than the last. With a limited 2-week engagement through July 5, Newsies is a must-see high-energy show that leaves no room for less than routines.
Inspired by the ‘Newsboy Strike of 1899,’ Newsies tells the true story of newsboy Kid Blink who led the group of orphaned and poorly treated newsies on a two-week strike against Pulitzer, Hearst, and other hard-hitting newspaper publishers after unfair treatment. The show tackles issues still historically and culturally relevant, discussing the power of unity and how the modern-day David can still defeat the rich and powerful Goliath.
The inspirational tale was turned into a Disney movie in 1992 starring a much-younger Christian Bale, and although it wasn’t a huge hit at the box offices, it turned into a cult classic. With requests for a stage adaptation, Disney obliged and has seen great success in the theatre. The die-hard fans have reached a new generation with ‘Fansies,’ the name given to the fierce devotees of the show.
Not only did Newsies gain a dedicated fan-base, but they also received high critical-acclaim with a Tony Award-winning score with music by the famed Alan Menken and lyrics by Jack Feldman, as well as a book by four-time Tony Award-winner Harvey Fierstein. The show was the highest grossing in the 2011-12 Broadway season, also undoubtedly winning the Tony for Best Choreography by Christopher Gattelli.
Those amazing dance moves have spun their way into the national tour and with countless flips and turns the newsies have moved their way across America and into Boston. Set in New York City the story follows Jack Kelly, based off historical character Kid Blink, who is the leader of the pack of misfit newsboys. Kelly, played by Dan DeLuca, dreams of a better, stress-free life out west, until he is forced to stand up for what is right after the mistreatment of the newsies by publishers like Pulitzer and Hearst.
DeLuca has an effortless voice as Jack Kelly, shown by his rich and pretty tone in the final note of ‘Santa Fe’ at the end of Act one. But even more effortless is his swagger, charm, and chemistry with love-interest Katherine played by Stephanie Styles. Styles is also a talent to talk-home about, as her adorable demeanor is not the only thing that wins the audience over. She proves herself in Katherine’s trademark difficult song ‘Watch What Happens,’ singing fast, high, and acting without missing a beat.
Heartwarming character Crutchie is played by a sweet Zachary Sayle who has an even sweeter voice. A cast standout is Benjamin Cook as Race. Cook separates himself from the rest with a signature high-pitched and spunky voice, and he continues to define his character with a cigar always in-hand, or rather mouth, and absolutely impeccable dancing. He makes his turn at the end of ‘Seize the Day’ look like child’s play, smirking at the end as if the audience doesn’t know the difficulty level of what appears to be a walk in the park for a dancer like Cook. But his real spotlight moment lasts probably less than a second, towards the end of the tap number in ‘King of New York,’ he flaps his foot so fast it might as well be a cartoon onstage instead of a human.
However, the best part about Newsies is that the entire cast is made up of incredible dancers. Song after song each dance break continues to wow even more than the last. This show really defines what Musical Theatre should be: flashy and entertaining, while still maintaining a sense of impressiveness and meaning.
One of the best movements in the show is actually the ever-changing set by Tobin Ost. At first appearing minimalist, the intimidatingly gritty set seems simplistic in the sense that it is made up of only grid work and scaffolding with three stories and nine windows. However, once these pieces start moving, the set has a life all its own – it’s practically a dance number in itself. The towers can move 14 feet up and down the stage, and can revolve 350 degrees to continuously create the show’s various locations.
Also, Sven Ortel’s projections, (adapted by Daniel Brodie,) allow the audience to gain insight on intimate happenings occurring onstage on a large-scale. This insight is seen during ‘I Never Planned on You.’ Viewers get to see the beautiful drawing come to life as Jack sketches Katherine as a sign of his growing crush. The projection provides a visual representation of the softer side of Kelly, and makes sure the audience is just as moved as Katherine is when she looks at the small paper now blown up for all to see.
The set, dancing, projections, and purposeful plot come together to engage audience members across all ages. The flashy dance numbers and Disney songs make for a great piece of entertainment, but the finesse of the dancing and powerful story of brotherhood is what makes this show not just a piece of entertainment – but a piece of art. In this melding of entertainment and art, Newsies reaches the hearts of children and adults alike. No longer does theatre insult a child’s capability to enjoy the art form, and no longer do parents have to sit through watered-down productions. The battle is won in Newsies not only when the David group of boys defeats the Pulitzer and Hearst Goliaths, but when families no longer have to fight to see a show that pleases everyone.
Newsies is currently running through July 5 at the Boston Opera House, visit www.BroadwayInBoston.com for tickets to the show that is redefining theatergoers.