Highly Recommended *****
In an era where newspapers appear to be phasing out, it is exciting to see a story about the power that this media once had. That is what “Newsies”, the Disney award-winning musical, based on the 1992 film is about. It is the musical story of an actual event that took place back in the late 1800′s- The Newsboy Strike of 1899. With a book by Harvey Fierstein and music by Alan Menken along with lyrics by Jack Feldman, this marvelous musical takes us back in time when our country was in deep depression and people were living from day-to-day. Young men were selling newspapers in order to help their families survive and many families, having fled cities like New York, left their children with family members, but the children ended up in orphan homes or places far worse.
In this story, our hero, Jack Kelly (an amazing performance by Dan DeLuca) leader of a bunch of newsboys, who dreams of making some money and heading out of the big city to his dream location, Santa Fe, getting off the streets, ends up forming a “union” so they can strike against the “big players like William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer and make life bearable for his co-workers. In reality, the real story, where the main man was Kid Blink, lasted two weeks. In “Newsies” the time frame is a bit less, but the story is based on what transpired as the “kids” brought down the powerhouses that controlled the city. That was the power of the press in action.
This is a production that is filled with song and dance. DANCE should be capital letters and probably bold as these young men ( there might have been a lady or two interspersed in the ensemble) were on the move for almost the entire two and a half hours. Not just dancing, but steps that were jazz, ballet-style and of course tap. here are also some extraordinary somersaults and tumbling movements. You will be amazed at what you see. In fact, I would say that if anyone dozes off during this show, they need to visit a doctor and find out what is wrong with them.
The cast is highly energetic and extremely talented. For the most part, when we get a road tour it is of high quality, but I would have to say that this cast is probably the equivalent of what played on Broadway for over 1,000 performances. Zachary Sayle is a wonderful “Crutchie” Jack’s best friend/brother and Jacob Kemp a delightful Davey. Davey’s little brother is played by two actors who alternate performances. I watched the adorable Anthony Rosenthal take on the role of 8 year old Les. (This is a star in the making with stage presence that is not to be believed). Stephanie Styles is a delightful Katherine, the love interest for Jack and as it turns out, she is connected to our villain, Joseph Pulitzer ( Steve Blanchard).
This is, however, an ensemble show where the dancers and the work they do under the direction (Jeff Calhoun) and the wonderful choreography (Christopher Gattelli) is mind- blowing. It is hard to believe that they can do so much and still sing and say their lines. These dancers are: Benjamin Cook, Sky Flaherty, Jordan Samuels, DeMarius R. Copes, Julian DeGuzman, Jeff Heimbrock, Nico DeJesus and Jack Sippel. WOW!
The rest of the ensemble, who in many cases take on several roles are: Josh Burrage, Michael Ryan, Jon Hacker, John E. Brady, Mark Aldridge, Bill Bateman, Evan Autio, Chaz Wolcott, Kevin Carolan, Meredith Inglesby, James Judy and the incredible Angela Grovey as Medda Larkin. The songs, while not memorable or for that matter ones you will hum on the way out or on the way home are fitting to the telling of the story and they are all sung to perfection by this very able cast.
The tech part of this production is unique and allows for quick scene changes with metal towers that can be a rooftop, rooms, cells and are moveable to the point where we find ourselves going from place to place with ease. Tobin Ost’s design is special and with the screens we are able to see the unique projections (Sven Ortel) that keep us in the story. The costumes (Jess Goldstein) are sheer perfection, the sound (Ken Travis) and lighting (Jeff Croiter) are the crowning touches to a show that I am sure could play here for a much longer time than just the Holidays.
Disney “Newsies” will continue at The oriental Theatre located at 24 West Randolph Street ( between State and Dearborn) through January 4th with performances as follows:
Wed, Dec 17: 2:00pm & 7:30pm
Thu, Dec 18: 7:30pm
Fri, Dec 19: 7:30pm
Sat, Dec 20: 2:00pm & 8:00pm
Sun, Dec 21: 2:00pm
Tue, Dec 23: 7:30pm
Wed, Dec 24: 2:00pm
Fri, Dec 26: 2:00pm & 7:30pm
Sat, Dec 27: 2:00pm & 8:00pm
Sun, Dec 28: 2:00pm
Mon, Dec 29: 7:30pm
Tue, Dec 30: 2:00pm & 7:30pm
Wed, Dec 31: 2:00pm
Fri, Jan 2: 2:00pm & 7:30pm
Sat, Jan 3: 2:00pm & 8:00pm
Sun, Jan 4: 2:00pm
Tickets range from $40- $130 and can be purchased at any of the Broadway In Chicago box offices, by calling the Broadway In Chicago Ticketline at 800-775-2000, at all Ticketmaster locations and online at www.BroadwayInChicago.com
To see what others are saying, visitwww.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Newsies”