BWW Review: NEWSIES at Connecticut Repertory Theatre
There are many reasons why people love to hear stories of the underdog making his or her voice heard and creating real change in the world. Sometimes it is because they can relate to the lone voice of reason cutting through the noise, or the brave soul willing to stand up for what's right, regardless of the consequences. But it is often the tale of the struggling souls who raise their voices, take action and change their circumstances for the better that really stand out and strike a chord. And in NEWSIES, the final production of Connecticut Repertory Theatre's (CRT) Summer Nutmeg Series, the stage comes alive with the "inspired by real-life" story of how a few young men "seized the day" and made a real difference.
Set in turn-of-the century New York City, NEWSIES tells the tale of Jack Kelly (Jim Schubin) and his motley crew of newsboys (or Newsies) who go on strike to protest their unfair treatment, and end up making a positive impact for all the young workers working in the city at the time. NEWSIES is inspired by a real event - the Newsboy Strike of 1899, and explores themes that are as relevant today as they were 100 years ago, including social justice, corporate greed, and unfair labor practices.
Overall, CRT's production of NEWSIES is vibrant, energetic, emotional and relatable. The relationships on stage feel real and authentic and the struggle (though punctuated with singing and acrobatic dancing) seems oddly current. Christopher d'Amboise, who serves as both Director and Choreographer captures the emotion of the piece, effectively using the CRT stage and guiding the actors nimbly through very difficult dance numbers. And, while the stage itself is smaller than the original Broadway stage, Mr. d'Amboise fills every inch with leaping, spinning, and flying newsboys. It is truly magnificent to see and one of the highlights, if not the highlight, of the show.
Speaking of highlights, the cast of NEWSIES is strong across the board. Jim Schubin as Jack Kelly lends his strong profile and his soaring tenor voice to the confident, yet conflicted, leader of the gang. His performance of "Santa Fe" to close the first act is raw and brilliant and worth the price of admission alone. Tyler Jones' Crutchie is feeble, yet funny, Tuck Sweeney stands out as the gruff, cigar smoking Race, and as brothers Davey and Les, Noah Kieserman and Atticus L. Burello also shine. The ensemble really raises the bar as well. Every group production number and song is exciting to behold. As Joseph Pulitzer, Richard R. Henry is comically sinister and Tina Fabrique as Medda Larkin delivers a funny yet strong "That's Rich". Finally, as Katherine Plumber, Paige Smith is bold and convincing as the hard-headed young journalist.
In terms of the technical elements of NEWSIES, Tim Brown's scenic designs are realistic, functional and fluid, capturing the period well and filling the stage effectively. Fan Zhang's costumes are also great, especially when given the opportunity to use color, such as in Medda's dresses. The musicians, led by Music Director NDavid Williams are also extremely strong.
NEWSIES is a show that excites audiences while telling an important story of a difficult time in our history. It is both extremely entertaining and thought provoking, and one that leaves audiences smiling and thinking as they leave the theater. Whether you are a newcomer to the show or a rabid "Fansie", CRT's production does not disappoint.
NEWSIES by the Connecticut Repertory Theatre (CRT) runs at the Harriet S. Jorgensen Theatre on the campus of the University of Connecticut in Storrs, CT through July 16. Evening performances start at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Matinee performances start at 2 p.m. on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Subscription package options range from $30 to $99. Single tickets prices range from $12 to $55. For additional ticket information or to purchase tickets by phone, call 860.486.2113. To purchase tickets online, visit www.crt.uconn.edu.