BWW Review: NEWSIES at White Theatre

Two sold out audiences leaped to their feet in group appreciation of "Disney's Newsies," a co-production of the Jewish Community Center's White Theatre (in Overland Park) and The Coterie Theatre (normally operating out of Crown Center).

BWW Review: NEWSIES at White Theatre

Take a carefully formulated recipe, mix proper ingredients, add a generous helping of regional and appropriate talent, and bake under the supervision of expert professional directors. Voila! A bomb of a 1992 film duckling transforms into a successful 2012 stage swan pastry. Audiences of all ages loved to lap up the result. Kansas State University Professor and "Newsies" Director and Choreographer Jerry Jay Cranford and Assistant Director Christina Burton have molded this iteration of "Newsies" into a massive crowd pleaser. BWW Review: NEWSIES at White Theatre

"Newsies" is very loosely based on the two-week 1899 Newspaper Street Vendor's Strike against newspaper magnets and robber barons William Randolph Hurst and Joseph Pulitzer. This real, early union action accomplished a reassignment of business risk for the street vendors and shined a light on child labor conditions as the nineteenth century turned into the twentieth.

Intense made-up friendships along with the creation of an imaginary love affair are featured in this rewritten libretto by actor/writer/director Harvey Fierstein. Fierstein rescues an otherwise serviceable 1992 movie score by Alan Menken and Jack Feldman. The result is something with which the 2012 Tony Awards became more than mildly excited. "Newsies" earned eight nominations and won three of the little statuettes.

The leader of this Victorian teenage rebellion is orphan/hustler /artist/leading man Jack Kelly here played with verve by Noah Lindquist. Lindquist pulls off his roll with passion and competence. He has a very pleasant voice. Kelly's sidekick Crutchie is Lucas Lowry who pairs a believable illusion of his gimp throughout with a strong voice. The love interest is girl investigative reporter Katherine Plumber (nee Pulitzer) embodied here by Kelly Urschel. We don't hear the very nice quality of her voice until deep into Act II. The brains and sweet behind the strike are co-owned by the brother act of Davey (Christoph Nevens) and Les (a part shared on account of tender age by Valen Jurkowski and Ben Renfrow). The villain of the piece is (perhaps a bit unfairly) Joseph Pulitzer impersonated by well known local actor Ron Meyer. BWW Review: NEWSIES at White Theatre

All of this is pretty standard musical theatre faire until you figure in the dancing heart of this show. The dancing is exceptional under the tutelage of Dr. Cranford and Ms. Burton. Dr. Cranford was rightly surprised by the dancing talent / gymnastics ability available to him. Between the flip-flops, round-offs, and back flips mixed in with leaps, athletic ballet, modern dance, and old fashioned tap, the audience grabs on and thoroughly enjoy what would otherwise be humdrum material.

There are almost too many Newsies to list here, but they are the beating heart of the show and give it an exceptional life force. They are Sam Wise, Fisher Stewart (Race), Ryan Jacobs (Albert), Jackson Tomlin (Specs, Bill), Weston Thomas (Henry, Finch), Maya Momon (Elmar), Leah Landwehr (Mush), James Fenoglio (Romeo), D'Andre McKenzie (Newsie, Spot), Amanda Dulny.

BWW Review: NEWSIES at White Theatre

Not enough credit is given to Musical Director Pamela Williamson and her very credible, but unseen ten piece orchestra. The set for "Newsies" is something of a proto-type designed by Fourth Wall Scenic and top quality. It is the hope of the leasors at Musical Theatre International that elements of the set will follow the show to additional venues and casts.

"Newsies" continues at the White Theatre through July 29th. Tickets are available at or by telephone at 913-327-8000.

Photos courtesy of the White Theatre, and The Coterie. Photos by Rich Fabac.

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From This Author Alan Portner

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