BWW Review: Pioneer Theatre Company's NEWSIES is Exhilarating
Pioneer Theatre Company has managed to successfully reinvent NEWSIES while at the same time recreating the excitement and quality of the original production.
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.
The leading cast could have easily played the roles on Broadway. Jonathan Shew as Jack is simultaneously rough-edged and vulnerable with vocals to match. He's a talented leading man the audience wants to root for. Nadia Vynn as Katherine is hard-nosed and soft-hearted with a voice like an angel. Their rooftop duet "Something to Believe In" is just that.
Really the entire cast is strong, and the dancing is quite extraordinary. With leaps and turns that defy gravity, every dance number impresses. Director/choreographer Karen Azenberg has created a vocabulary of movement that is something special, especially in the fluid transitions from scene to scene that use staging as a means to further character and plot development. The only quibble is that there is not more full out dancing throughout the show than there is.
Another key element to the seemingly effortless transitions is the appealing scenic design from George Maxwell, which morphs seamlessly into many different locations without the use of projections. The restrained lighting design by Kirk Bookman often takes center stage without ever seeming gratuitous.
The costume design by David Kay Michelsen is an accomplishment. A few of the newsboy costumes feel too color-coordinated, which adds a hint of an unwanted storybook quality, but otherwise the costumes feel grounded in historical reality. There is an accurate divide between the classes, and the many dresses worn by Katherine and Medda are absolutely gorgeous.
Even if you've seen NEWSIES before, this is an exhilarating production you won't want to miss.
NEWSIES plays through December 20, 2017. For tickets, call the box office at 801-581-6961 or visit www.pioneertheatre.org.