BWW Review: Extra! Extra! Hale Theatre Center's NEWSIES Delivers!!!
Who doesn't love a story about kids fighting for a good cause!
NEWSIES (the Harvey Fierstein, Alan Menken, Jack Feldman opus) is just such a show ~ brimming with idealism and energy ~ the tale of the triumph of a band of turn-of-the-19th Century youngsters, mostly poor and immigrant, who rejected what amounted to the exploitation of child labor.
In demanding an adjustment to their paltry wages, they overcame the caprices of the barons of turn of the 19th Century, Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst.
By way of historical context, David Nasaw's Children of the City recounts that the newsboys had to buy the papers at 50¢ per hundred and sell them at a penny each in order to earn a profit of half a cent per paper. When Pulitzer required that they sell more papers to earn the same amount, they rallied and halted delivery throughout New York's boroughs. The Newsboys' Strike of 1899 was the culmination of a series of strikes over the years to protest such abuses. It ended with limited success ~ but success nevertheless ~ and became the stuff of legend ~ fictionalized in the DC Comics' series Newsboy Legion, then in the 1992 Disney film Newsies and its adaptation to the Disney musical in 2011.
Hale Centre Theatre's current staging of the show has all the crispness and vitality typical of a Cambrian James production ~ his well-conceived and executed direction and choreography (with dance captain Ashley Harkey), Elizabeth Spencer's musical direction, and a proficient and dynamic cast to boot.
Kade Bailey delivers an energetic and convincing performance as Jack Kelly, the reluctant rebel, struggling with ambivalence between his desire to escape the mean streets of New York's boroughs and fulfill his artistic talent in faraway Santa Fe, and the call to speak truth to power.
Kaitlyn Russell shines as Katherine, the neophyte reporter for Pulitzer's New York World who sees the strike as an opportunity to put her byline on the front page. She inevitably becomes Jack's spur to action and, yes, there's a romance brewing. She registers her characters aspirations with genuine sensitivity and assertiveness in her rendition of Watch What Happens.
Ashley White is superb as Medda Larkin, the owner of a theater that provides haven to Jack and the newsies. Her big-voiced and brassy affirmation of her situation, That's Rich, is one of the show's highlights.
If Jack Kelly is, they eye of the storm that blows against the deceits of publisher Pulitzer (Joey Morrison), his young lieutenants are the whirlwind that propels him. Each brings the required bravado and energy to their roles ~ Brandon Brown as Crutchie, the irrepressible and ever loyal heart of the movement; Trustin Adams as Davey, who backs Jack up with equal resolve and courage; and Charlie Hall as Davey's audacious little brother Les. Their audacious performances are backed up by a powerhouse ensemble.
NEWSIES (run time: 2 hours and 30 minutes) continues through June 29th at the Hale Theatre Center in Gilbert, AZ.
Poster credit to Hale Centre Theatre