Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron

Newsies
Porthouse Theatre
Review by Mark Horning


Matt Gittins and Cast
Photo by Paul Silla
A challenging music to stage is Disney's Newsies, based on the 1992 film. For starters, it takes a large cast of be triple threats (acting, singing and dancing). Nearly half the cast needs to be proficient in tap dancing as well as gymnastics and somersaults; flips and cartwheels are in abundance. There also needs to be a high degree of energy in order to propel a rather weak and predicable script. While the principal players all have their moments in the spotlight, the real star of the show is the ensemble, who command nearly half of the musical numbers. Not being one to turn away from a challenge, Porthouse Theatre has Newsies on stage as their third and final show of the 2017 season.

After a depression followed by the Spanish American War, paper sales have gone down. As part of a cost-cutting campaign, publisher Joseph Pulitzer has organized all the newspapers to raise the price they sell papers to the newsies from 50 cents to 60 cents per 100. Jack Kelly (Matt Gittins) is the young elder statesman of a rag-tag bunch of orphans and street urchins who hawk newspapers in New York City in 1899. His dream is to someday escape the drudgery of New York and move to Santa Fe, New Mexico with his friend Crutchie (Morgan Thomas Mills). After being chased by Warden Snyder (Clinton Owens), who heads he Refuge (a poorly run orphanage where abuse and neglect are the norm), Jack seeks cover at a local vaudeville theater owned by Medda Larkin (Tina D. Stump) where he meets Katherine Plumber (Katelyn Cassidy) who is working as a society reporter.

Davey and Crutchie, with newsie newcomer Davey (Bryce Baxter), his brother Les (Finn O'Hara), and Katherine, manage to organize the New York City newsies, but their protest takes a turn for the worse when they are attacked by strike breakers and scabs. Crutchie is captured and taken to The Refuge and Jack considers giving up.

The next morning, Katherine finds the newsies licking their wounds at the local deli but manages to cheer them up when she shows that their picture and story of the strike made the front page of the New York Sun. She sets out with Davey and Les to find Jack and try to convince him to return as their leader. Jack refuses, not wishing to put his friends in further danger, but when he learns of Crutchie's fate agrees to help, and the newsies mission continues.

Everyone onstage provides the required high level of energy. Matt Gittins as Jack, Morgan Thomas-Mills as his cohort Crutchie, Katelyn Cassidy as Katherine, Bryce Baxter as Davey, and Finn O'Hara as the surprising Les form the core that keeps this show together, and the ensemble sings, dances (including tap), and tumbles their way into the hearts of all in the audience.

A small army of professional caliber performers manage to take a formula musical and turn it into something very special. Bring the entire family together for a pre-show picnic and an outstanding evening of musical entertainment.

The Porthouse Theatre production of Newsies will be on stage through August 13, 2017. The theater is located on the grounds of Blossom Music Center, 1145 W. Steels Corners Rd., Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. Tickets may be purchased online at www.kent.edu/porthouse or by calling (303) 672-3884.


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