Newsies: A Visual Powerhouse.

Reviewed by Iris Winston

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Photo: Deen Van Meer

The hottest news about Newsies is the excellent choreography and terrific dancing, closely followed by the striking high-tech design enabling fluid set changes that become part of the action.

The 2011 musical, based on a 1992 Disney movie — and, according to the program, inspired by the book Children of the City by David Nasaw — is a romanticized version of the 1899 newsboys’ strike against the papers owned by Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst. The poverty-stricken boys were forced to buy the newspapers they then hawked around the streets of New York City. When Pulitzer and Hearst hiked the price to the newsies, they could not make anything approaching a living wage. Their strike, which included forming a human barrier across Brooklyn Bridge, eventually forced the newspaper tycoons to back down and is credited with laying some of the groundwork for future unionization of labour.

Harvey Fierstein’s book gives some sense of the exploitation of the children, but is more concerned with leaving openings for the dance routines and songs that are the musical’s core. The romance between strike leader Jack Kelly (a suitably cocky and well-sung performance from Joey Barreiro) and the ambitious journalist Katherine — her surname should remain a surprise — (a pleasant but forgettable performance from Morgan Keene) is more than a little unlikely, but in the world of musicals almost anything is possible…. even Theodore Roosevelt as the deus ex machina to solve the strike and ensure a happy ending.

Alan Menken’s music is hummable and some of Jack Feldman’s lyrics carry punch, but the power of this show is in the flashing feet of the high-energy ensemble, led by dance captain Andrew Wilson. Kudos to award-winning choreographer Christopher Gattelli.

Director Jeff Calhoun wisely keeps the focus on dance, but still allows Pulitzer to be something of a caricature of a villain (as played by Steve Blanchard) while Stephen Michael Langton’s Davey is a little too gentle and retiring.

On opening night, it was difficult to judge the true quality of the singing voices, as there were some issues with technical sound quality.

In general, however, Newsies is a fun show and a visual powerhouse.

Newsies continues at the National Arts Centre to November 1.

Produced by Broadway Across Canada

Newsies, Book by Harvey Fierstein, Music Alan Menkin, lyrics by Jack Feldman.

Director: Jeff Calhoun

Music director: James Dodgson

Choreographer: Christopher Gattelli

Scenic design: Tobin Ost

Costumes: Jess Goldstein

Lighting: Jeff Croiter

Sound: Ken Travis

Technical supervisor: Geoffrey Quart

Cast:

Jack Kelly………………………………………………………Joey Barreiro

Crutchie…………………………………………………………Zachary Sayle

Race……………………………………………………………..Benjamin Cook

Albert……………………………………………………………Sky Flaherty

Specs……………………………………………………………Jordan Samuels

Henry……………………………………………………………Demarius R. Copes

Finch…………………………………………………………….David Guzman

Elmer/Spot Conlon………………………………………………Jeff Heimbrock

Romeo……………………………………………………………Nico Dejesus

Mush/mayor/Bill………………………………………………..Nicholas Masson

Katherine…………………………………………………………Morgan Keene

Darcy……………………………………………………………..Joshua Burrage

Nuns……………………….….Kaitlyn Frank, Aisha de Haas, Meredith Inglesby

Morris Delancey…………………………………………………..Michael Ryan

Oscar Delancey…………………………………………………….Alex Prakken

Davey………………………………………………………….Stephen Michael Langton

Les…………………………………………………………………Ethan Steiner

Alternate John Michael Pitera

Joseph Pulitzer…………………………………………………..Steve Blanchard

Seitz……………………………………………………………..Eric Scott Kincaid

Bunsen/stage manager…………………………………………..Bill Bateman

Hannah………………………………………………………….Meredith Inglesby

Snyder…………………………………………………………..James Judy

Medda Larkin……………………………………………………Aisha de Haas

Mr. Jacobi………………………………………………………..Michael Gorman

Scabs……………………………………Evan Autio, Sky Flaherty, Chaz Wolcott

Governor Roosevelt……


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