BWW Review: NEWSIES are the Kings of Sacramento
"Newsies" made the headlines as a flop Disney film back in 1992, but the musical garnered a cult following that led to its 2012 revamp on Broadway. The national tour of that production, now on its final leg, carries the banner to Sacramento this week with its own outstanding effects worthy of above-the-fold, front page attention.
Based on an actual newsboys strike, "Newsies" has a straight-cut story complete with classic underdog and typecast villain. But even as newspaper owner Joseph Pulitzer lauds capitalism and puts the blame of his problems on the "evils" of socialism, actor Steve Blanchard rakes the tycoon for all his maniacal revelry is worth. With Harvey Fierstein's new book, each character has an important supporting role. Friends Jack Kelly and Crutchie fight child exploitation with frustrated optimism, humor and dreams. They take on Davey and his kid brother (Stephen Michael Langton and Ethan Steiner), who become the mind and courage behind the strike after Pulitzer raises paper prices. And fledgling reporter Katherine Plummer helps put their story to the page, serving as Jack's romantic interest and as a reminder that home is what you - and your friends - make it.
Several of the original film's songs remain in the show, mixed with new tunes from composer Alan Menken. They range from forgettable plot mechanisms to unforgettable, over-the-top joyrides. Menken wrote "Letter from the Refuge" specifically for Crutchie in the national tour, and Zachary Sayle does a heartbreakingly lovely job of singing it. Stage diva Medda Larkin receives a one-note song, which Aisha de Haas turns into a fabulous and entertaining time. Morgan Keene's excitement as an inspiring Katherine is contagious during her show-stopping number "Watch What Happens." She also shares sweet moments with Joey Barreiro's Jack in "I Never Planned on You" and "Something to Believe in," while Barreiro leads a flawless ensemble in favorites such as "Carrying the Banner," "The World Will Know" and "Seize the Day." Here, audiences find full value for their price of admission. "Kings of New York" and more showcase Christopher Gattelli's jaw-dropping choreography, from cartwheels and back flips to tap dancing and pirouettes. Tobin Ost's tiered set design and Jeff Croiter's vivid light design complete the spectacle.
"Headlines don't sell papes. Newsies sell papes," one newsboy says. The same may be true for this incredible show filled to the brim with energy and life. These newsies and their creative team know how to sell a Broadway musical.
Through April 17
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