Extra, Extra! Newsies Is Going To Run For A Million Years!

Tonight, Newsies opens on Broadway.

In a matter of hours, we fully expect a prompt announcement that will put an end to these "limited run!" shenanigans...once and for all. Yeah, we went there.

Hillary and I saw the show from lotto seats this past Sunday with the highest of expectations, based on the deafening buzz surrounding the adaptation of the 1992 movie failure/cult classic and our never-ending appreciation of all things Jeremy Jordan. And to be honest? We can't find a single tidbit about the staged version, which began its life at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey last fall, to pick apart. Our only complaint would be the awkwardly slanted side orchestra seats we were given, which resulted in feeling like we sat on a Tilt-A-Whirl for two and a half hours. (And that the ridiculous Santa Fe dance break from the movie was cut, but that's another story.)

Yes, there are some "DISNEY!!" moments in Newsies. But it's a Disney show. Duh. The result is the perfect first Broadway show for anyone from the cliched ages of 8 to 80. Harvey Fierstein's book serves its purpose - to more or less transition between the show's infectious musical numbers, with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Jack Feldman.

Yes, for you die-hard movie fans, there have been some changes. Remember how terribly boring the character of Sarah was? (If you don't, well, that proves our point.) Enter Katherine Plumber, played by the sparkling Kara Lindsay, who, had she been included in the movie, would have been eight-year-old, aspiring-journalist-Michelle's IDOL. As a replacement character for Denton and a new and FAR more compelling love interest for Jack, Katherine is strong, intelligent, determined, and quick with the sarcasm - and these qualities are why Jack likes her! Major feminist props from us to you, Disney.

Nearly half of the young, male-dominated cast makes their Broadway debuts with this show. Combine their energy with a few hundred of Newsies' biggest fans in the audience, and the Nederlander nearly levitated during numbers like "Carrying The Banner" and "Seize The Day." (The crescendo in the middle of the latter inspired Hillary to kick me furiously in the shins.) While the show's highest points remain beautifully re-orchestrated versions of songs from the movie, a few new additions are nice as well, particularly "Brooklyn's Here," "Something to Believe In," and "Watch What Happens," Katherine's number. Medda (Capathia Jenkins) and Pulitzer (John Dossett) each get a new song as well, but it's really the kids we care most about. In the midst of so many powerful and iconic songs, my personal favorite was the build in the middle section of "Once And For All," first heard in this video from the Paper Mill sitzprobe. Live, it's a completely thrilling moment that makes your heartbeat feel like it's shifting the time signature of its palpitations right along with the song.

Christopher Gattelli's choreography is the ridiculous epitome of inventive and infectious. With a penchant for tap dancing and no dance skills whatsoever, watching professional dancers from a few rows back will always remain one of the coolest things about musical theater to me. And these boys can DANCE, flip, twist, tap, DANCE, and did we mention DANCE?! They dance on tables, with metal spoons, and on NEWSPAPERS. Ryan Steele garnered mid-number applause for a particularly impressive pirouette at the performance we attended, and I suspect that was not a one-time deal.

Random tidbits that we enjoyed, narrowed down from a list far too large to include in its entirety - the adorable Matthew Schechter as young Les; golden-voiced Ben Fankhauser as the timid Davey; and a well-utilized relevance and connection to the recent Occupy movement, especially at the show's end, with a call for the young generation to stand up for themselves. Andrew Keenan-Bolger as Crutchie proved himself a terrific character actor by stealing the scene in every one of his few appearances. We also loved the clever use of animation (this is Disney, after all) to show the daily chalking of the news headlines, and a image of Katherine as Jack draws her.

If you're wondering how we've gotten this far with minimal mention of the show's triumphant leading man, look no further. As an opening argument, we direct you to his bio, which reads, in part, "He recently starred opposite Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah in the gospel hit, Joyful Noise, and also shot some folks as Clyde Barrow in Bonnie and Clyde on Broadway."

Jeremy Jordan plays strong, violent, vulnerable, relatable, and admirable all at the same time. His is a voice that we've never heard crack or fall flat. It's fortunate that the show-stopping "Santa Fe" falls at the end of act one, because we needed some time to recover from the high note at its conclusion. (Tangent: can someone please explain to us what is so alluring and fantastic about Santa Fe to musical theater folk?!) Jordan gets to be freer and goofier as Jack than as Clyde, which was a delight to see. Those moments in scenes where the spotlight wasn't on him seemed to be where Jordan really brought Jack's nuances to life. Although we would have loved (read: massive understatement) for him to have had a longer run as Clyde, Jordan is this season's break-out leading man, hands down, and we're feeling  oddly like proud mothers as we read the fantastic notices he's receiving in reviews more legitimate than ours.

External to the show itself, there's the issue of the Newsies cast recording debuting on April 10 (listen to some sample tracks on their Facebook page) and the Bonnie & Clyde cast recording on April 24. We see you, blatant attempt to distract us from every important obligation in April, like an oncoming ensemble of twirling, dancing newsboys that we're powerless to stop.

The only other thing to say about Newsies? How cool is it for each and every Newsie to get their own bow at curtain call. What a thrill to watch the definition of a talented ensemble raise the show to electric heights and then receive individual recognition for a job well done.


Post a Comment