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NEWSIES at Toby's Dinner Theatre in Columbia - Start Spreading the News_NEWSIES is a hit!!


One of these days I am going to not enjoy a production at Toby's Dinner Theatre. It just hasn't happened yet, and it may never happen.

Under the direction of Toby Orenstein and Mark Minnick, Toby's is presenting an invigorating and marvelous production of Disney's NEWSIES which should not be missed.

NEWSIES is based on the true story of the young newspaper delivery boys in New York City (10% were girls) who in 1899 began a strike of all of the newspapers in New York. In 1992 Disney released the film of the same name which included many musical production numbers but was not considered a musical and was not successful. Later the Disney Chanel played it often and with the introduction of video-tapes and DVD, it established a cult following and Disney took another look at it.

There was talk in 2008 about a stage version and making it into a full-blown musical written by Alan Menken and Jack Feldman. According to Harvey Fierstein he was sitting in Menken's studio wondering what project they could work on together and he saw the poster for NEWSIES on the wall. He stated he saw the film numerous times when babysitting and knew his nephews loved it.

That led to the decision by Disney to mount the musical at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey with no intention to transfer to Broadway. Fierstein actually wrote the book of the musical and made changes from the film. The set was built so theater companies could rent it for productions across the country in small theaters and then Disney would not lose their investment.

The problem was the show got rave reviews and before you know it, it was on Broadway where it won two Tony Awards. (Read the book "Disney NEWSIES, Stories of the Unlikely Broadway Hit" edited by Ken Cernigila.)

Toby's has done a masterful job transforming their intimate dinner theater filling it with movable scaffoldings (clever scenic design by David A. Hopkins), and moving lighting by Lynn Joslin and David A. Hopkins.

The story involves Jack Kelly (the talented and charismatic Matt Hirsh) who leads the young ruffians who confront Joseph Pulitzer (yes the prize is named after him) who owned "The World" newspaper and decided that his paper and all the papers in New York would raise the price to the newsboys. This true story of unions, workers' compensation, child labor laws, the plight of orphans, police brutality (Pulitzer has the police backing him) are all addressed.

Veteran Russell Sunday who I've seen numerous times excels as the villain Pulitzer.

Many theatergoers have questioned why the musical starts with a song sung by Jack and his side-kick Crutchie (the likeable Taylor Witt) about moving to Sante Fe. Well, according the book mentioned above, in the original script, Jack was going to reunite with his little brother who had been sent west on an orphan train. The song is still gorgeous.

Toby veteran MaryKate Brouillet plays a reporter (has a secret I will not reveal) who tried to help the newsies. She nails her solo "Watch What Happens" that she sings while typing an article.

Kadejah One plays Medda Larkin who owns and stars in a theater and assists Jack by allowing the newsies to use her theater as a gathering spot for the newsies.

Jack's right hand man in leading the newsies revolt is Davie and Harrison Smith who is perfect for the role. His kid brother Les (Tyler Smallwood) is just plain adorable. Sharing this role is Cooper Trump.

The key to the show however is the fabulous music and dancing.

Ross Scott Rawlings is the musical director and did the great orchestrations. The night I attended, Reenie Codelka conducted the six piece band.

Kudos to Ilona Kessell for the amazing choreography and a shout out to all the newsies for their exuberant dancing. I loved the backflips, tap dancing, and switch-leaps.

My one fault dealt with the sound design by Mark Smedley which needs correcting. It was very difficult to understand much of the dialogue.

I also suggest Toby utilize the services of a dramaturg who could add a little bit of background about this true story in the program.

After you see the show, you can watch a film of the Broadway production on Netflix starring Jeremy Jordan.

NEWSIES continues until June 10, 2018. For tickets, call 410-730-8311.

There is also a book about these events entitled "Extra! Extra! The Orphan Trains and Newsboys of New York by Renee Wendinger.

Next up is MAMMA MIA! I will not miss this and and many of you know why! !! It runs June 15 to September 9, 2018. The rest of the season includes AIN'T MISBEHAVEN', THE LITTLE MERMAID, and GYPSY.


There is a HAMILTON sing along 4 p.m. this Sunday at Baltimore's Jewish Museum of Maryland.

The Tony Awards will be on Sunday night, June 10 on CBS at 8 p.m. NBC's "The Today Show" has its annual "Broadway Week" beginning April 30. On Tuesday May 1 the hit musical THE BAND'S VISIT will be presented.

Circle June 25 on your calendars when you can see the wonderful Broadway musical BANDSTAND at your local movie theater produced by Fathom Events. It stars Corey Cott who replaced Jeremy Jordon on Broadway in NEWSIES.

The Hippodrome will be host to AN AMERICAN IN PARIS which opens May 1 and runs until May 6. I saw this on Broadway and loved it. Then ON YOUR FEET follows. Next season has FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, ANASTASIA, CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, THE KING AND I, COME FROM AWAY, THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG, LES MISERABLES and THE BOOK OF MORMON. And then there's HAMILTON which will play four weeks next summer - June 25 to July 21, 2019.

The Baltimore Symphony presents "To Bernstein with Love" Friday May 4 at 8 and Sunday May 6 at 3. Marin Alsop will conduct music from WEST SIDE STORY, ON THE TOWN, CANDIDE and other selections.

Just announced Tony-winner Audra McDonald joins the BSO in concert Thursday night, June 14 at 8 p.m.

DVR alert:

Live from Lincoln Center April 20 with Sutton Foster and Jonathan Groff

April 27 Leslie Odom, Jr. (coming to DC June 16 at the Anthem, July 8 in Selbyville, DE and later in July in Ocean City, MD

May 4 Stephanie J. Block

May 11 Andrew Rannells

The Kennedy Center announced a superlative line-up for next season that includes:


There will also be three musicals done in a concert version: LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, THE WHO'S TOMMY, and THE MUSIC MAN with Harold Hill played by the talented Norm Lewis, so spectacular as Caiaphas in NBC's JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR LIVE.

Arena Stage has August Wilson's TWO TRAINS RUNNING (until April 29, 2018) and the world-premiere musical SNOW CHILD (until May 20, 2018). Next season has TURN ME LOOSE, INDECENT, THE HEIRESS, JUNK, ANYTHING GOES, KEPTTOCRACY, JOA and JUBILEE.

Another world premiere musical coming to Baltimore Center Stage: SOUL THE STAX MUSICAL inspired by the legendary story of Stax Records with iconic stars such as Otis Reading, The Staple Singers, Isaac Hayes, and Booker T. & The MG's. It runs May 3 to June 10, 2018. Next season will feature CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, KING OF THE YEES, A WONDER IN MY SOUL, the Tony-winning musical FUN HOME, Paula Vogel's hit INDECENT, and HOW TO CATCH CREATION.

The highly anticipated THE BOOK OF JOSEPH opens at the Everyman Theatre May 9 and runs until June 10, 2018. Directed by Noah Himmelstein, the play is by Karen Hartman and is based on the life of Joseph A. Hollander and his family. Baltimore's Rich Hollander has compiled letters from his family in his book and the play got rave reviews in Chicago.

Dundalk Community Theatre has the musical CATCH ME IF YOU CAN from April 27 to May 6.

I've heard great things about Vagabond Theatre's VANYA AND SONIA AND MASHA AND SPIKE by Christopher Durang. This comedy (which I loved at Center Stage) runs until May 6, 2018.

Spotlighters Theatre ends its hilarious I LOVE YOU YOU'RE PERFECT NOW CHANGE April 22, 2018.

Rep Stage in Columbia has TRUE WEST by Sam Shepard and directed by Everyman
Theatre's Artistic Director Vincent Lancisi running April 26 to May 13, 2018. Next season brings SWEENEY TODD, THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET, THINGS THAT ARE ROUND, Anna Deavere Smith's TWILIGHT: LOS ANGELES, 1992, and THE 39 STEPS

I'm looking forward to VIETGONE at the Studio Theatre which runs from April 25 to May 20. This comedy takes place in a refugee camp in 1975 and promises to be "high octane".

CAMELOT directed by Alan Paul comes to the Shakespeare Theatre Company May 22 and continues until July 1, 2018.

Signature Theatre has announced its 2018-2019 season. It features PASSION, HEISENBERG, BILLY ELLIOT, AIN'T MISBEHAVIN', GRAND HOTEL, SPUNK, and BLACKBEARD.

The Round House Theatre next season will feature SMALL MOUTH SOUNDS, HOW I LEARNED TO DRIVE, GEM OF THE OCEAN, OSLO, and A DOLL'S HOUSE PART 2.

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