BWW Review: NEWSIES Is a Triumph at Candlelight Pavilion
Based on fact, in 1899 droves of newsboys from every borough of New York City banned together and went on strike against Joseph Pulitzer, William Randolph Hearst and other wealthy newspaper owners, in a crusade to save children from menial wages and physical abuse. This was a first, where uneducated street kids stood up to the big suits and won. In 1992 Disney created the movie Newsies that went on to become a popular hit. In 2012 Harvey Fierstein, Alan Menken and Jack Feldman came to Broadway with a musical show they created based on the film. Newsies is currently onstage at Candlelight Pavilion. This is a huge undertaking for Candlelight, and as with Titanic and other big shows of the past year, they have surpassed expectations to the A+ level. From the top the 28 member Newsies ensemble come on like thunder. They will entertain you, and fill you with a passion to stand up and fight for what you believe in.
Director/choreographer Janet Renslow has done a superior job. The show starts simply with two boys - orphans - waking up to face another grueling day delivering 'papes' in the big city. Jack Kelly (Jimmy Saiz) yearns to be a big man in a small town "Santa Fe"or so he tells his crippled pal Crutchie (KC Archer). But, the fact is both boys are trapped and must survive. Unfortunately, their very survival is at the expense of, in this case, The World and its publisher Joseph Pulitzer (John George Campbell). By forcing the boys to spend .60 for 100 papers instead of the usual .50, they are looking at a way to turn a profit, all of which will victimize the kids, who when troublesome, get thrown into prison-like refuges with worse living conditions than the streets. It's a dead-end. Dead-end kids had no future, but kept longing for a better world...Kelly is determined to make a difference, to blaze a trail of significant changes. When he meets a journalist Katherine (Elizabeth Curtin) who offers to write a front page expose showing the grand endeavors of the boys, little does he know that she is Pulitzer's daughter. But, all is not lost, as there are sparks between the two, and Katherine hatches a plan that will make them all winners.
As in all Disney shows there is a happy ending, but not without a lot of challenging obstacles to overcome. This is an endearing piece that is clearly a true ensemble effort. The entire group of boys contribute to moving the play forward with magnificent song and particularly dance. Luckily, these are triple threat actors, and Renslow's choreography is fast paced and truly atheletic. Their movement never lets up as they move the steel set pieces with its multiple tiers in and out creating a continual sense of community. Even when they are not involved musically, their words produce a unified purpose, a bond which cannot be broken. The trouble that the boys encounter from the publishers and the police is at the crux of the whole show, and fortunately for the audience the action never slows down for a split second. We really come to care for Jack, Crutchie, Davey (James Everts) and his little brother Les (Levi Gomes) and for that matter, every newsie in sight.
For an ensemble to achieve maximum results everyone works 150%. One actor stands tall above the others. Saiz as Kelly brings a dynamite force to the work. It is difficult not to cling to every word he utters. Watch out for him. He should go far in his career. Curtin is heartfelt and on fire as Katherine as is Campbell as Pulitzer a dynamically heartless villain In a brief scene, Greg Nicholas is sincerely supportive of the newsboys as Governor Teddy Roosevelt. Rashonda Johnson as Medda Larkin is strong and bold as the brassy saloon-like theatre singer who befriends Jack and the boys.
Harvey Fierstein's book is tight, and Alan Menken and Jack Feldman keep the explosive hit songs from the film in tact like "Seize the Day", "Carrying the Banner", "King of New York" and the aforementioned slower ballad "Santa Fe" which adds a lot of fine contrast.
Fabulous set provided by RCC Fine & Performing Arts, and the costumes provided by the Theatre Company are vibrant and period perfect. Kevin Gasio, music director, makes the taped recording sound as sharp and clear as a real live orchestra.
Go see Newsies! It's a thoroughly enjoyable and engrossing show that will win you over and over... This is a fact-based tale full of educative content and stimulation for kids 12 and up.
(photo credit: Demitrios Katsantonis)
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Act One at Candlelight is the gloriously delicious meal I am a fan of the slow roasted tri tip, especially the thick Bollinger cut, but chose the baked trout fillet this time around and it was oh so flavorful. $6 drink specials like Jack's Penthouse in the Sky with peach pecan whiskey set a stimulating mood for the fast paced evening. Service from the waiter staff is always superb. It was great to see Travis training Andrew, both of whom were uber efficient and super friendly.
Next up is the wonderful and highly anticipated holiday show, an original, The Bells of Christmas, which is close to sold out on weekends from November 29 to December 24, so make early reservations for midweek performances.
Remember, it's an annual treat, as Santa and Mrs. Claus are live on stage for the little ones!