BWW Review: NEWSIES at EPAC
Stop the presses! EPAC's production of Newsies is highly energetic and entertaining. Based on the 1992 Disney film of the same name, Newsies is a classic David and Goliath story about the real life 1899 NYC newsboy strike. Richard Thomas stars as Jack Kelly, a charismatic leader of the newsboys. Thomas has a fine voice and moves around the stage with grace and confidence. A quibble with the script is that I was not really sure how old his character was supposed to be. Some of Jack's dialogue and motives are more akin with that of a young adult, not someone who spends most of his day around ten year olds.
Rebekah Hill plays Katherine Plumber, Jack's love interest and a reporter who has a few secrets of her own. She helps bring awareness to the plight of the newsies, and brings a certain motherly sensibility to a group of ragtag boys, not unlike the role of "Wendy" in Peter Pan. Hill pulls this off with grace and conviction.
There are probably close to a dozen other Newsies in the show, two of my favorites being Corey Buller as "Davey", and Wes Guidry as the disabled "Crutchey". The Newsies sound great in their ensemble numbers and look even better when they are dancing. Kristen Pontz deserves a lot of the credit for her fantastic choreography which was consistently crisp and dynamic. Preston Cuer also must be recognized for his fight direction. It is not easy to present convincing stage violence in such an intimate space, yet Cuer and company pull it off effortlessly. Pontz and Cuer also share a directing credit which further enhances the unified vision of the production.
Other standout performances include Yolanda London Dwyer as sassy showgirl, Medda Larkin, and Tim Spiese as Joseph Pulitzer, newspaper mogul and villain of the story.
The digital projector backdrop was an excellent choice for this show. I am not sure if EPAC has used digital projection to this extent in a previous show. The choice gave the audience a vivid understanding of scene location without the hazards associated with energetic dancers tripping over furniture.
If I had one complaint with the show, it would be the clunkiness of the dialogue. The words never seemed true to me. A lot of the time, characters would be talking in thick, exaggerated "Nu Yawk" accents using slang like "papes" to appear gritty or street smart. However, when the script called for it, these uneducated hoods talked about an event being "an auspicious beginning", or were able to explain that unions must craft a "mission statement" in order to be taken seriously. At times, the tone was inconsistent.
Nevertheless, this is a small complaint in an otherwise fun night of family entertainment. Running now through November 2, tickets are going fast and can be found at the theater's website.