Chicago Theatre Review
Newsies is Always Good News!
Newsies – Cadillac Palace Theater
As the headlines fade on this inventive, toe tapping musical bundle, it’s dancing, music and sheer moxie have kept it exciting. A beautiful comet of theater brightness, noteworthy and beloved.
I got a chance to see Newsies on its final National Tour run through Chicago this week. (The Newsies tour will end on Oct. 2 in Austin, TX) I was happy to see time or travel had not marred this real Broadway musical. Newsies opened on Broadway in 2012.
It’s a Disney adventure to be sure, based on the movie of the same name released in 1992 to a mediocre reception. Well loved by those movie musical fan baes; but overall, the movie was not a commercial success.
The musical is based on the Newsboys Strike of 1899 in New Your City, but its relevance to today’s societal ills should be noted.
So by now, if you haven’t heard or know anything about this musical, you can safely assume the show is about young boys that sell newspapers throughout the city of New York.
The heart of the story surrounds a boy named Jack Kelly and his best friend Crutchie. They are friends, and indeed, Crutchie has a crutch and he is under Jack’s oversight. They both have dreams of a new tomorrow, and look to the future for a chance to be successful and not be a newsie anymore. Joey Barriero and Andy Richardson respectively brought energy and soaring voices to these key roles. I particularly enjoyed Mr. Barriero’s Act I closer, “Santa Fe”, sending the audience for snacks on a high note.
As the story continues, we meet the mostly homeless waifs getting ready to start their day buying papers to sell on the streets. There is tension against the workers and the newsies whose livelihood depends on selling the papers. We discover that Mr. Pulitzer, (Well played and clear voiced, Steve Blanchard) who owns the paper, must raise the price of papers purchased by the newsies. It is clear he doesn’t care about the boys and the hardships they endure just trying to make a living.
The newsies strike, there is violence, and Jack retreats after Crutchie is captured and sent to a detention center of sorts. He disappears to his favorite theater in the company of his friend and supporter Medda Larkin. Aisha de Haas a powerhouse of talent under those big hats. Their members of the newsie corp find Jack and convince him he must help them lead and fight for a better life. Friends and newsies of note are Davey (understated and a moving performance by Stephen Michael Langton) and his brother Les. (super sweetness from Turner Birthisel)
In the end, Jack falls for beautiful reporter Katherine (the energetic and likable, Morgan Keene). He confronts Mr. Pulitzer. Discovers the beautiful reporter is Mr. Pultizers’ daughter, but she confesses her love for him. Together, and with the help of all the New York newsies, they print their own paper and send it on to then Governor Theodore Roosevelt (Nice job Kevin Carolan). Pulitzer makes another deal with Jack, Crutchie is freed, and the newsies can go back to work. Jack can finally except a job as an illustrator at the paper with Katherine by his side.
The iconic musical numbers from the show like “The World Will Know”, “Seize the Day”, and “King of New York” are raucous and bring a smile to your face. The dancing of course is amazing and exudes youthful energy and hopefulness.
With the clever mobile erector set style stairs and scaffolds, the projections add the perfect dimensional accents to the show. The show moved fast and kept me wanting more. It also warmed my heart at the more intimate moments, both brash and quiet shared the time on stage well.
This was a real old fashioned Broadway Musical, complete with misunderstood waifs, soaring score, intense choreography and a sweet, gratifying ending. The audience was with them the whole time. The magic is real.
My experience made me root for the Newsies and carry my enthusiasm outside the theater for anyone who needed a lift, a break, a smile, a wish for a new tomorrow.
By Johnny Buranosky
Newsies runs through Aug 7 at the Cadillac Palace Theater with Broadway in Chicago.
For tickets go to www.BroadwayInChicago.com
Additional information about this and other fine area productions can be found by visiting www.theatreinchicago.com