by Louise, Community Manager
For those of you unfamiliar with the phenomenon of Newsies, the original 1992 film was pretty much universally despised by critics and generally dismissed by audiences as well. Nonetheless, it found its way into the psyche of a large percentage of the population, and pretty much every lady I know who was between the ages of 4 and 17 when it came out is obsessed with it. And so its arrival on Broadway has been heralded with much excitement. For the purpose of recognizing that not everyone in the entire world knows this movie by heart, I have decided to divide my review into two different sections:
FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE OBSESSED WITH THE MOVIE:
Anyone going to see Newsies who has great love for the movie, as I do, should be warned that there were a huge number of changes – I’m not sure any of the original dialogue made it into the show. Some of the lyrics in the songs you know have been changed too. Bryan Denton has been replaced with a female journalist named Katherine who replaces Sarah (who is not in the show at all, along with the rest of Les and David’s family) as Jack’s love interest. And, in what apparently to some people is the most upsetting omission, Patrick’s mother is nowhere to be found in Carrying the Banner.
Once you get past all that though I think you’ll find the fun and spirit that makes Newsies such a memorable and loveable film is present in this show in spades. While there is no High Times, Hard Times the rest of the songs you know and love are there – Carrying the Banner, Seize the Day, The World Will Know, Santa Fe, and King of New York – and most of them are giant, show-stopping dance numbers performed by an impeccably talented and impossibly energetic cast. At the end of almost every big number, they held their final pose for what felt like several minutes while the audience gave them their due.
The original songs are joined by new songs penned by Alan Menken and Jack Feldman, and while none of them grabbed me in quite the same way, in all fairness I haven’t known them for 20 years, and I did find myself humming a few of them today. Favorites were Brooklyn’s Here, sung by the Brooklyn contingent as they join forces with the rest of the Newsies, and Watch What Happens, a song that portrays the hope the characters feel about their ability to bring positive change.
FOR PEOPLE WHO AREN’T OBSESSED WITH THE MOVIE
Newsies is based on the true story of the 1899 newsboy strike in New York City, where the newsboys who were vital at the time to the sale and distribution of newspapers walked off the job when they started being charged more for the papers they purchased wholesale to sell on the street. The story centers around Jack Kelly, a feisty 17-year-old who is the de facto leader of the newsies and is accustomed to working hard to take care of himself, along with Dave and Les Jacobs, who are new to the newspaper-slinging world, forced out of school and into work when their father is injured on the job and subsequently gets laid off. The newsies attract the attention of a local journalist in their effort, who vows to help them get the attention their cause deserves.
While the show is for the most part light-hearted and buoyant, it does center around the serious issues of the time, especially child labor. Don’t get me wrong, it’s totally uplifting, but there are definitely serious issues at the core of the story. However, mostly what you’ll probably come away remembering is the PHENOMENAL DANCING that happens every two minutes on that stage. I mean, history is important and all, but come on, awesome dancing!
Jeremy Jordan is unbelievably awesome in every way as Jack Kelly. I can’t overstate how fantastic his performance is. He is charming, scrappy, arrogant and defiant – in short, everything you want Jack Kelly to be. Unfortunately there was no magical way to return Max Cassella to his youth to reprise the role of Racetrack Higgins, but Ryan Breslin did a noble job making me grin in a very similar way, and Andrew Keenan-Bolger is sweet and delightful as Crutchie. John Dossett makes for a worthy adversary as Joseph Pulitzer, and while I have a few quibbles with the conversion of Bryan Denton to Katherine, Kara Lindsay nonetheless gives a lovely performance. For a cast that counts so many Broadway debuts among its ranks, they were one of the strongest ensembles I’ve seen in recent memory and perhaps most importantly, it was patently obvious at all times that they were just having the best time ever doing the show. And to me, nothing feels better than feeling like a cast is enjoying performing a show as much as I’m enjoying watching it.
So should you go see this show? YES! It is appropriate for everyone and will be enjoyed by all. I’d peg it as a contender for this year’s Tony for Best New Musical. Right now the show is only scheduled to run until August 19th, and while I hope they extend it to an open-ended run, you should nonetheless probably plan to see it soon. You can contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions or for tickets to see Newsies!