BWW Review: Hale Centre Theatre's NEWSIES is Realistic

BWW Review: Hale Centre Theatre's NEWSIES is Realistic

Disney's NEWSIES, playing at Hale Centre Theatre's newly christened Young Living Essential Oils Centre Stage in Sandy, is realistic and unexpected in its depiction of a newsboy strike.

NEWSIES (music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Jack Feldman, book by Harvey Fierstein) is based on the cult classic 1992 film. When Joseph Pulitzer raises the prices of newspapers, the newsboys who sell them go on strike. Their leader is the strong-willed Jack Kelly, who dreams of a better life outside the city but is fiercely loyal to his friends. Will they seize the day and win the fight?

The rousing, Tony-winning score contains the beloved songs from the film arranged for optimal vocals, along with a number of new songs that tug on the heartstrings and tap the toes. The story has been reimagined smartly, including the welcome addition of gutsy female reporter Katherine.

James Bounous as Jack (double cast with Preston Taylor) is reminiscent of original Broadway cast member Jeremy Jordan. His vocals are strong, and he plays the role with both masculinity and tenderness. He also dances impressively, which is not typical of the role.

Members of the supporting cast who give exceptional performances include Kandyce Marie as a warm but sassy Medda Larkin (double cast with Mack) and Neal C. Johnson as a cold but thoughtful Joseph Pulitzer (double cast with Ric Starnes).

Additional highlights include Bre Welch as Katherine (double cast with Kelly Hennessy Pulver), Jeremy Egan as Davey (double cast with Peter Reid Lambert), Cairo McGhee as Les (double cast with Cameron Dietlein), and Carter Walker as Crutchie (double cast with Gunnar Russell).

The local actors playing the newsies meet the task at hand with passion. The choreography by director Dave Tinney, while enjoyable to watch and well tailored to the staging in the round, is not tremendously complex, and the dancing is not completely polished, but they look like a group of scrappy kids struggling through life, and it feels real.

A unique and appreciated element of this production that conjures the controlled chaos of a strike both visually and symbolically is the chalk writing and shredded newspapers that at times cover the stage floor. It is unexpected and powerful.

The set from scenic designer/technical director Kacey Udy is a wonderful mix of restrained theatricality and technical prowess, with moving scaffolding, a nice use of levels, and brick walls on the sides of the stage that keep it from ever looking empty.

Lighting designer Michael Gray has created stunning lighting with patterns that look like the shadows of buildings and windows, supplementing and complementing the set to form just the right looks for the setting (although occasionally it could have been better used to put focus on where the audience should be looking in larger group scenes).

The projections are well designed by Joshua Roberts, and they work very well when used to highlight Jack's artwork. However, as has typically been the case for past shows in this venue, the projections are otherwise distracting. They illuminate the audience members because of the bright screens and pull people out of the world because of the distance between the projections and the stage and because of their animated style. The look of the production is much more realistic without them. In the future, it is recommended that projections be used more sparingly as necessary for productions such as this rather than relied on as a key element of design.

NEWSIES plays through September 1, 2018. For tickets, call the box office at 801-984-9000 or visit www.hct.org.

Photo Credit: L-R Jordan Dahl (Romeo), James Bounous (Jack), Wesley Valdez (Specs)

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From This Author Tyler Hinton

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