Did you know the Broadway musical Newsies is an adaptation of a 1992 musical film produced by Disney? I didn’t. I guess I was too busy watching Power Rangers in the 90s. I wish someone had told me about Newsies a lot sooner, because folks, it is seriously awesome.
Based on the Newsboys Strike of 1899 in New York City, Newsies (Lyrics by Jack Feldman, Music by Alan Merken, Book by Harvey Fierstein) tells an underdog story about children taking a stand against The Man, otherwise known as publishing magnate Joseph Pulitzer (Drake Ferris). The newly unionized children refuse to work until Pulitzer reverses his decision to raise the cost of newspapers for newsies. The organized strike is led by Jack Kelly (Cameron Patterson), a charismatic orphan who dreams of leaving the Big Apple for Santa Fe. With help from reporter Katherine Plumber (Allie Jeffery), the newsies’ cause is made known across the city.
Under the direction of Tania Breen, STU Musical Theatre’s production of Newsies is a real winner.
First, let’s talk about the cast. Here are more than 30 students absolutely crushing it, number after number. The characters come to life with earnest theatricality. You could freeze almost any scene with the newsies and capture in that one image so many little stories. These moments really pop thanks to the clarity Breen brings as a director.
Patterson’s Jack has a sharp tongue and plenty of swagger. Of course, none of that makes a difference for Jeffery’s Katherine who can’t be impressed so easily. Jeffery is a true delight in the role of Katherine. Ferris is entertainingly pompous as the newspaper tycoon. Mallory Kelly shows great comedic timing as the plucky youngster Les.
Courtney Arsenault’s choreography is big and explosive, which is absolutely wild because the Black Box Theatre isn’t that large, especially when you fill it with an audience. I just imagine someone saying the same thing to Arsenault and her replying with “watch me.” What makes the choreography so good is how Arsenault captures that fighting spirit and youthful energy that Newsies is all about. Arsenault’s choreography is absolutely electric.
Newsies tells a story that’s still relevant in our modern times. More than a century later, young people and their concerns are still being marginalized. “Think for yourself!” but not like that. “Stand for what you believe in!” but not like that. How dare young people protest greed while the Earth is slowly dying, right? Newsies reminds us that young people can make a difference, that Goliath can be defeated.
The production is held back by poor sound mixing. The orchestra, led by Michael Doherty, overpowers the ensemble’s vocals. So, the anthemic “Seize The Day” loses some of its lyrical power. There are also pieces of dialogue lost along the way. Frustrating? You betcha.
Ross Simonds’ vocal direction manages to shine despite the audio troubles.
From the timeless story to the irresistible musical score, there’s a lot to like about Newsies. Don’t miss STU Musical Theatre’s outstanding production. It’s a must-see.
STU Musical Theatre’s production of Newsies runs Feb 20 – 23 (7:30pm) at the Black Box Theatre, located on the St. Thomas University campus. There is a 2:00pm matinee on Saturday, February 23rd. Tickets are $20 General / $15 Students.