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BWW Review: NEWSIES Delights San Fransisco Now thru March 15


Stop the presses! Stop the presses! Newsies is hitting the headlines in a way that is worthy of front page, above-the-fold coverage. If you're looking for an uplifting powerhouse show that will inspire you to action then Newsies is the show for you. Playing now through March 15 at SHN's Orpheum Theatre, Broadway's smash hit musical is lighting a fire in the hearts of audiences - buy your tickets now.

Winner of two Tony Awards in 2012, Newsies tells the captivating tale of a rousing group of young boys living on the streets of New York City in the 1890's. Selling newspapers on street corners to scrape together a measly living they band together to stand up to one of the most powerful men in all of New York - Mr. Pulitzer - who's hiked up the prices the boys pay for their papers. Their answer - a city-wide strike. Based on true events this high-energy explosion of song and dance is one show you won't want to miss.

Hodges & Hodges were there to report on this headliner show.

Linda: If a show about class struggle, inequality and unfair working conditions doesn't do well in San Francisco then I don't know what will. Newspaper mogul Joseph Pulitzer (played with devious delight by Steve Blanchard) is the scoundrel in Newsies, but the show belongs to the fine troupe of boys who danced their way into the audience's hearts on opening night.

Nick: They were fantastic. With regard to the strike, I have been personally affected by strikes here in San Francisco. The fight is real and this show really brought it to light with a blast of energy that was invigorating to see.

Linda: The whole show was ablaze with energy, but that also meant that the plight of orphaned workers was downplayed in this Disney version. It was there, of course, but comedy and dynamic dancing softened the severity. But from the sets to the acting to the choreography, this was a fantastic production.

Nick: I couldn't agree more. And I couldn't believe the size of the set! It was huge. Tobin Ost, who was nominated for a Tony for this set design gave us a three story high industrial scaffolding with staircases running throughout. It split apart, rolled around, and accentuated the show perfectly.

Linda: The backdrop of the 1890's New York skyline was layered with newspaper print and the inky typesetting offset the coldness of the steel girders. Daniel Brodie adapted the original projection designs by Sven Ortel to merge with Ost's scenic designs to tremendous effect. You felt enveloped in that world without the set taking anything away from the story. In fact it was integral to the show.

Linda: Just as much as the dancing. Tony winner Christopher Gattelli pulled out all the stops with his masterful choreography, skillfully capturing the heat and the passion of the struggle through bold and crisp dance moves. It was breathtaking. The gasps from audience members was fun to hear as dancers performed splits in mid-air, or did extended pirouettes with a seemingly endless supply of energy.

Nick: And with a book by Harvey Fierstein, music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Jack Feldman you almost can't go wrong.

Linda: Menken and Feldman took home Tonys for Best Score for this show and though there were no breakout hits, the music was exuberant. The show opens with newsies Jack Kelly (played by the strong yet vulnerable Dan DeLuca) and Crutchie (Zachary Sayle was charming) dreaming of a better life in, of all places, Santa Fe. Why Santa Fe? We're given no context other than the fact that isn't New York. I much preferred the more generalized Menken/Ashman hit "Somewhere That's Green" from Little Shop of Horrors.

Nick: Small quibble. I was impressed by Zachary Sayle who plays Crutchie. To perform the entire show while using a crutch was something. His character gave us an emotional tug, especially when he gets apprehended during the strike and placed in the Refuge, a rat-infested and grim orphanage.

Linda: The need to get Crutchie out gives the newsies a reason to keep on fighting. Kelly is distraught and feels responsible for some of the Newsies who got beat up for being part of the strike, but his budding love interest, Katherine (Stephanie Styles) stays by his side and together they work to defeat Pulitzer and win the day.

Nick: Styles was an ideal match for DeLuca with the chemistry between them making for a great performance. Her voice was crisp and clear, with a sharpness to it that really made her stand out. And she was wonderful in "Watch What Happens." It was a great song.

Linda: Blanchard's Pulitzer, the heartless man of industry who only cares about money, was perfect in this role. You got the feeling that it was all just business to him; his blatant disregard for the newsies, simply part of the cost of doing business well.

Nick: Don't forget about that belting diva of the stage Medda Larkin played to perfection by Angela Grovey who sang her heart out. With a voice that'll knock your socks off, she brought a blast of strength to the song "That's Rich." She was perfectly cast.

Linda: And last, but not least, we have brother duo Davey and Les, played respectively by Jacob Kemp and Anthony Rosenthal. Kemp had a nice character arc through the show and Rosenthal was adorably fierce and very funny. As the youngest cast member, he more than held his own.

Nick: This whole cast was fantastic. Director Jeff Calhoun did a great job leading this cast in this powerhouse performance. I'm probably going to go and see the show again.

Linda: Don't forget to invite me! I want to go too!

This inspiring show about standing up for your rights is powerful and stirring. The actors breathe life into each character and you are with them on every step of their journey. A show that is perfect for the whole family, Newsies is about fighting for what's right...and staying true to who you are - no matter what.

Book by Harvey Fierstein
Music by Alan Menken
Lyrics by Jack Feldman
Directed by Jeff Calhoun
Choreographed by Christopher Gattelli
Now through Mar 15, 2015
Photo courtesy of Deen Van Meer

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