Theatre

Newsies, the Disney film from 1992 by Alan Menken (whose run around the same time of Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin I’d put up against the work of any songwriter, on tape, on film, or on stage), was one I saw back when it hit VHS. But I don’t remember it too well. At least not the story. So, having not yet seen the Broadway adaptation of Newsies, I was curious to see if the Marriott Theatre’s production made more of an impression. And boy, did it ever.

The story’s still nothing that’ll make the “papes” (that’s what newsies call those inky, stinky things that used to provide the daily headlines), but I quickly realized we weren’t there for story. We were there for spectacle. And boy, did this production deliver.

In the round, the set is dominated by three steel girders that move to change the feel and figure depending on the needed background, but mostly harken back to turn-of-the-century NYC (partying like it’s 1899, not 1999), a city that’s growing and figuring it all out. So, too, are the newsies of the title, a pack of newspaper delivery boys of all shapes and shades and sizes, but who’ve got one thing in common – servitude to the media titans of the day. The story – one of standing up to the wealthy bullies who run things – is inspiring and as apt today as it was over a century ago, even if it doesn’t hold up to the spectacle. So let’s get to that spectacle!

Patrick Rooney as principal paperboy Jack Kelly works well as the lead. He’s got old-timey leading man looks and allure – “pizazz” they probably would’ve called it back in ‘99. And he’s got pipes, too, really letting loose on Menken’s “Santa Fe” to close the first act.

Jack’s fellow newsies have pizazz from the Bronx to Brooklyn, too. Athletes, all, they leap and bound, frolic and flip all across the square stage, charming the audience on all sides with spot-on choreography. Nick Graffagna as Davey looks and talks the part of a lad of that era, and Garrett Lutz’s bushy-haired Irishman does, too. Laura Savage and Adrienne Storrs as two newsgirls provide even more spunk and theater talent to the gang. And when the newsies storm the simple stage for ensemble numbers like “Seize the Day” and “King of New York” they make Lincolnshire’s modest forum seem simply metropolitan.

But from the get-go, the newsie who stands the tallest is young Matthew Uzarraga. As Crutchie, a disabled orphan armed with his namesake walking stick, Uzarraga first shows his skills when he joins Jack in harmony on an early take of “Santa Fe” – I’m a sucker for spot-on harmonizing, one of the things that’s hardest to do as a vocalist and when done right gives the listener goosebumps – giving me the chills. And throughout the show, Uzarraga’s crippled but plucky street urchin steals the stage whenever he’s on it, hobbling along happily and even bubbly and bright when consigned to a poorhouse bed.

My teen daughter, who accompanied me to the Marriott and who did catch the traveling cast of Newsies at the downtown Cadillac Theater a couple years back, said she enjoyed this production even more – delighted at seeing the footwork and old-timey fashions up close. So, too, did the rest of the audience – old and young, alike. So if it’s a story you’re looking for, I’ll tell you right now, Newsies is pretty much Annie, but with Worlds and Suns and Tribs instead of mops and buckets and baldheaded tycoons. But if it’s a show, a spectacle, you wanna see, then head to Lincolnshire for the Marriott’s production of Newsies, and pony up for the pomps and papes they’re sellin’!

For more show information visit www.marriotttheatre.com.

Published in Theatre in Review

From the bustling streets of New York City at the turn of the 20th century comes the Tony Award-winning new American musical, NEWSIES, making headlines at the Marriott Theatre just in time for the holidays, running October 25 through December 31 at 8 p.m. at 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire. Featuring an electrifying score with music by eight-time Academy Award winner Alan Menkenand lyrics by Jack Feldman, and book by four-time Tony Award winner Harvey Fierstein, NEWSIES is the ultimate story of courage and overcoming one’s fears. Jeff Award nominee Alex Sanchez (Marriott Theatre: Evita, On the Town, Mary Poppins) brings his high-octane energy and brilliance to direct and choreograph the heartwarming piece, with Musical Direction by Jeff Award winner Ryan T. Nelson.
 
“We all get to a fork in our lives - which path do we choose? I want to inspire audiences to not be afraid to take the courageous path and strive for the unreachable,” says Director and Choreographer Alex Sanchez. “This story will be brought to life on stage with a plethora of energy bursting from our outstanding cast of dancers. Incredible set design will flow with the ensemble to provide a city landscape as vibrant as New York.”
 
Based on the 1992 motion picture of the same name and inspired by the real-life ‘Newsboy Strike of 1899’ that shook the ivory towers of publishing titans William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, NEWSIES follows orphan Jack Kelly and his band of teenaged ‘newsies,’ who dream of a better life far from the hardships of the streets. While they’ve had the talent and moxie to survive the challenges of inner city New York, the newsboys are pushed to the limit when media moguls Hearst and Pulitzer raise distribution prices at the boys’ expense. Timely and fresh, the fictionalized adaptation of NEWSIES addresses age-old themes of social injustice, exploitative labor practices and struggles as the young learn to harness their power against a corrupt establishment. Featuring soul stirring music, NEWSIES introduces eight brand-new songs by the original dynamic duo team of Menken and Feldman while keeping many of the beloved songs from the film, including “Carrying the Banner,” “Seize the Day,” “King of New York” and “Santa Fe.”
 
NEWSIES stars Patrick Rooney as “Jack Kelly” (Marriott Theatre: World Premiere of October Sky, Spring Awakening), Eliza Palasz as “Katherine Plumber” (Marriott Theatre: World Premiere of October Sky, Evita, Spring Awakening), Kevin Gudahl as “Joseph Pulitzer” (Marriott Theatre: Spring Awakening, Elf, My Fair Lady, 1776, The King and I) and Stephanie Pope at “Medda Larkin” (Broadway: Chicago, Pippin, Fosse). NEWSIES also stars Nick Graffagna as “Davey,” Matthew Uzarraga as “Crutchie,” and Carter Graf and Zachary Uzarraga alternating as “Les,” with Bill Bannon, Eean Cochran, Shea Coffman, Nicholas Dantes, Alejandro Fonseca, Sam Griffin, Garrett Lutz, Jeff Pierpoint, Zachary Porter, Liam Quealy, James Rank, Laura Savage, Peter Sipla, Adrienne Storrs, Steven Strafford, Richard Strimer, Martin Ortiz Tapia, Tiffany Tatreau, Andy Tofa and David Wright, Jr.
 
The production will feature set design by Kevin Depinet, lighting design by Jesse Klug, sound design by Robert E. Gilmartin, properties design by Sally Weiss, and musical supervision and orchestra conducted by Patti Garwood.
 
The performance schedule for NEWSIES is Wednesdays at 1:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 4:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., Sundays at 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m., with select Thursday 1:00 p.m. shows. Holiday weeks may have adjusted schedules. Ticket prices range from $50 to $60, including tax and handling fees. Call for student, senior and military discounts. On Wednesday and Thursday evenings there are a limited number of FREE dinners available with the purchase of a full-priced theatre ticket, which can only be purchased through the Marriott Theatre Box Office. To make a restaurant reservation, please call 847.634.0100. Free parking is available at all performances. To reserve tickets, please call The Marriott Theatre Box Office at 847.634.0200 or go to www.ticketmaster.com. Visit www.MarriottTheatre.com for more information.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Inspired by the Newsboy Strike of 1899, “Newsies” uses the power of dance and song to tell the story of a group of teenagers and children who stand up to the powerful men running the newspapers of New York City, defending the rights of children workers everywhere. Jack Kelly is the leader of the “Newsies” gang, but dreams of a life out west far away from the mean streets of New York where he can focus on his true passion, art. When Pulitzer raises the price of newspapers, Jack rallies the rest of the “Newsies” across the city and fights back. With the help of an up and coming reporter, with an interesting heritage, the “Newsies” become front page news and fight for justice growing new friendships, strengthening old ones and also sparking a romance along the way.

 

From the opening number, through to the end of the show, “Newsies” is non-stop dancing and singing sensation. With a large ensemble cast and powerful choreography by Christopher Gattelli it creates a high energy atmosphere that sticks with you long after the curtain falls and the show is over. The dancing is continually moving across, up and over the entire stage, with dancers jumping, turning, flipping and of course tapping. Music, by Alan Menken, and lyrics, by Jack Feldman, capture the emotions and tensions of the “Newsies” echoing to the last row of the balcony, giving the audience chills. To top it all off, the set design, by Tobin Ost, is simple, but creatively flexible. Comprised of a few metal structures that stand 3 stories tall and can be moved and rotated, it created scenes that filled the stage and took the choreography to a whole new level. 

 

While this show is predominantly an ensemble show, there were some strong main character performances starting with Joey Barreiro as Jack Kelly. He captured the smooth charm of the character and followed it up with a strong singing voice and amazing dancing. Stephen Michael Langton as Davey is the perfect complement to Jack. And because no show is complete without a good love story, Morgan Keene as Katherine has great chemistry with Jack and brings some great girl power to a cast that is predominantly male. Steve Blanchard, as Joseph Pulitzer, plays a great bad guy, one you love to hate.

 

Overall, “Newsies” delivers a thrilling and adrenaline charged performance from the opening minute to the closing note. It never relies on sparkling costumes, fancy lighting but lets the singing and dancing speak for itself. And speak it does! The audience will fall in love with the characters, be wowed by the dramatic flips and perfectly precise choreography, and share in the emotional battle of the “Newsies”.

 

“Newsies” is playing at the Cadillac Palace Theater in Chicago, but be sure to get your tickets soon because it is only here for a limited time!

 

Published in Theatre Reviews

 

 

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