BWW Review: CLO's NEWSIES Out and On a Mission
In a news story, the lede is the captivating opening paragraph, the exciting exposition that locks the reader's eyes to the text and incites them to continue on. The Disney musical Newsies finds its lede in leading paperboy Jack Kelly (Joey Barreiro), an unknowing hero who rallies his fellow paperboy troops to strike and protest Joseph Pulitzer's increased newspaper bundle cost of 10 cents. Delivering that with 1899 styles of dress, heavy New York accents, and large dance numbers, Mr. Barreiro and the cast of Disney's Newsies create a hot-off-the-press energized performance.
To orient audiences with the setting, the set and costume design are precisely presented. The industrial chic look of brick buildings and exposed, movable steel staircases comprise the majority of the set while the tattered brown knickers and shirts of the boys accentuate the time period. Bowler hats and the integral newsboy caps top off the great costume design by Dixon Reynolds.
The misogyny of Industrial Revolution era America is evident in the lack of female roles - only four to the opposite sex's two dozen. Still the leading ladies, as they always do, play integral roles in the success of the guys. Katherine Plumber (Beth Stafford Laird), a reporter for a rival paper, catches the eye Jack Kelly. Their mutual quip and combative nature align for the perfect working relationship, giving audiences "Something to Believe In," even in desperate times.
Pencil turns, pirouettes, and barrel rolls abound in this show, as large dance numbers follow one another throughout both the first and second acts. Audiences love when a stage full of actors are able to kick, jump, and step in unison, and for the most part, the cast of Disney's Newsies does this. Their synchrony is evident in the tap number "King of New York." There is no question that these boys are talented, but being a beat ahead or behind will never bode well in a group number, and the audience will notice unforgivingly.
On a similar note, group numbers are vocally more striking than solos or duets, but blending issues and altogether off pitches were prevalent in the beginning of the show. Even with passionate - and varying - New York accents, notes should be sung as written. All of this, along with some awkward scenic and lighting changes, could be attributed to opening night jitters, and for the sake of the rest of the run, I hope this was the case.
The show itself has big names attached to it; Alan Menken for music, Jack Feldman for lyrics, and Harvey Fierstein for book. Director and choreographer of this production, Richard J. Hinds had a lot to live up to when he began working with the actors. One thing he undoubtedly had to grapple with was the intensity of the rising action from open to close. How can you coach actors to be passionate in the middle of the first act with a number like "The World Will Know" and be even more ardent in the second act for "Once and For All?" It's a challenge and a balance, directing and choreographing so that when a wall of Newsies "parks and barks" at the front of the stage, it delivers the right amount of intensity and is not overdone.
Disney's Newsies resonates with Pittsburghers on the grounds of the infamous Homestead Strike, but Disney made this labor dispute a little more family-friendly. Aside from a suggestive comment here and there, which would probably go over most youngsters' heads, the show is clean and well received by the audience. You can take it from me, or you can go and "Watch What Happens."
To see or not to see score: 5/9 Approved Show
Photo Credit: Matt Polk