Review: Disney's NEWSIES Reminds Everyone to Seize the Day and Fight for What is Right
Theatre Royale has been touring Southern California presenting a Broadway-quality production of Disney's NEWSIES starting at the Pechanga Resort Casino in Temecula, CA on June 22 and ending in Fresno with two performances on July 13, 2019 at 2pm and 8pm. I can tell you after seeing the show at the Soraya at CSUN last weekend, I now understand why this high energy musical has been so popular with audiences since its 2012 Broadway opening where it was nominated for 8 Tony Awards and won two for Best Choreography and Best Original Score. There is something in it for everyone, with the kind of magnificently energetic dancing that ranges from ballet leaps to tap and every form of movement in between.
Based on the 1992 motion picture, Disney's NEWSIES The Broadway Musical features a score by eight-time Academy Award®-winner Alan Menken and Jack Feldman and a book by four-time Tony Award®-winner Harvey Fierstein, inspired by the real-life Newsboy Strike of 1899, when newsboy Kid Blink led a band of orphan and runaway "newsies" on a two-week-long action against Pulitzer, Hearst, and other powerful newspaper publishers. Timely and fresh, the fictionalized adaptation of Newsies addresses age-old themes of social injustice, exploitative labor practices, and David-versus-Goliath struggles as the young learn to harness their power against a corrupt establishment.
The leader of the Newsies ragtag pack is Jack Kelly, portrayed by the charismatic Dillon Klena, who lives on a rooftop with his sidekick Crutchie (Chris Romero Sosa who shines in his solo "Letter from the Refuge'), who effectively uses his foot disability to sell more papers to rich women passing by on the city streets. After his father loses his factory job, Davey (Matthew Malecki) and his young brother Les (DEAN NORRIS who gloriously steals every scene in which he appears) show up looking for work to support their family. They soon become fast friends with the rest of the talented triple-threat Newsies following them, agreeing to strike when their boss, Joseph Pulitzer (John Campbell), whose main mission in life is to enhance the "Bottom Line," raises the price of newspapers which the Newsies must buy from him and then re-sell on the streets to make their money back with, hopefully, a bit of profit.
Along the way, Jack manages to convince club owner Medda Larkin (Valerie Gleason, who rocks the house with "That's Rich") to support the boys by allowing them to meet and organize for the strike in her place of business. A chance meeting with reporter Katherine Plumber (Kylie Molnar whose smile and attention-grabbing presence ignite the stage) brings Jack the ally he needs to let the city, as well as the world, know exactly what the real reasons are behind the need to strike. Her foreshadowing solo "Watch What Happens" shares her drive and passion, while her love duet "Something to Believe In" with Jack on his rooftop under the stars brought the magic of young love into focus. Of course, Katherine has a secret which may derail their relationship, but that's something I will not reveal here.
Trudee Stevens highlights Klena in a royal blue shirt, making Jack Kelly stand out from the other Newsies dressed in shades of brown and other neutral colors. Malecki is the only Newsie wearing a white shirt and hat, signaling Davey's more refined upbringing, while the upper-class newspaper owners and office assistants are dressed to perfectly reflect their social standing.
With high-energy with non-stop thrills, the stage version explodes featuring the original Tony Award®-winning Broadway choreography by Christopher Gattelli, and introduces eight brand-new songs by the original team of Menken and Feldman while keeping many of the beloved songs from the film, including "Carrying the Banner," "Seize the Day," "King of New York," and "Santa Fe."
Music Director and Conductor Don LeMaster creates magic with a small orchestra which easily will have you believing there are three times as many musicians in the pit. Directors Scott King and Sarah Cleveland, with Producer Carolyn King, are to be commended for putting together such an entertaining and technically brilliant production.
The Theatre Royale production of Disney's NEWSIES The Broadway Musical is staged to perfection by Chasen Greenwood on a magnificently designed, moveable, multi-level set (which could easily double for West Side Story), featuring a cast abounding with energetic talent and incredible dancing. I wish this production would keep traveling so more people in towns not accustomed to this level of entertainment have a chance to experience it.
Final performances take place at the Saroyan Theatre, located at 730 M Street in Fresno, CA 93721, on Saturday, July 13, 2019 at 2pm and 8pm. Tickets are priced from $39 - $94, and may be purchased online at Ticketmaster; over the phone by calling 1-800-745-3000, or in person at the Selland Arena Box Office, Mon-Fri 10am-6pm.
Photo credit: Shane Gibson