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BWW Reviews: Above the Fold! Pulsating NEWSIES Storms the Pantages


Newsies/book by Harvey Fierstein/music y Alan Menken/lyrics by Jack Feldman/directed by Jeff Calhoun/choreographed by Christopher Gattelli/Pantages Theater/through April 19

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 humongous hit. In 2012 Harvey Fierstein, Alan Menken and Jack Feldman came to Broadway with a musical show they created based on the film. Under the Disney banner, the first national tour of Newsies is currently onstage in its LA premiere at the Pantages. All I can say is run, don't walk, to purchase tickets. The Newsies ensemble pulsates from the moment the lights hit the stage. It will jolt you, fulfill you and make you jump for joy.

With Jeff Calhoun's meticulous staging and Christopher Gattelli's super sensational choreography to guide it, the show starts simply with two boys - orphans - waking up to face another grueling day delivering 'papes' in the big city. Jack Kelly (Dan DeLuca) yearns to be a big man in a small town "Santa Fe"or so he tells his crippled pal Crutchie (Zachary Sayle). 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 (Steve Blanchard). 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 (Stephanie Styles) 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. DeLuca as Kelly is a dynamic force of nature but it is the entire group of boys who move the play forward with magnificent song and particularly dance. Luckily, these are triple threat actors, and Gattelli's choreography is fast, atheletic and rocks the roof right off the Pantages. Tobin Ost's steel set with its multiple tiers moving front and back keeps the group together in a continual sense of community, and 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 moves at an uber brisk pace, never slowing down for a split second. We really come to care for Jack, Crutchie, Davey (Jacob Kemp) and his little brother Les (played alternately by Vincent Crocilla and Anthony Rosenthal) and for that matter, every newsie in sight.

For an ensemble to achieve maximum results everyone works 100%, no 150%. Each actor does have a standout moment, though. DeLuca, Sayle - so touching especially singing a new tune written for the tour "Letter from the Refuge", and Styles, who is a total knockout as the fiery Katherine - all consistently knock your socks off. Blanchard as Pulitzer is appropriately stern and mean, and in a brief scene, Kevin Carolan is especially heartfelt as Governor Teddy Roosevelt. Angela Grovey as Medda Larkin lends outstanding support 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.

Go see Newsies! It's a thoroughly enjoyable and engrossing show that will win you over and over and over... This is a fact-based tale full of educative content and stimulation for kids of all ages.

(photo credit: Deen van Meer)

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