Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires
Also see Fred's review of Broken Glass
The national touring cast of family-friendly and resplendent Newsies, highlighted by dazzling dance, plays the Bushnell in Hartford through October 18th. The youthful, ultra-talented performers (a number of whom are new to the tour) spin, gyrate, and sing their way through two and one half hours of joyful musical theater.
It is 1899 in New York City and a paper delivery boy, Jack Kelly (Joey Barreiro), through "Santa Fe," explains to Crutchie (Zachary Sayle) that he hopes to leave this environment and find a better place. Yet time moves along and Jack, getting his newspapers for the day, sees Davey (Stephen Michael Langton) and small brother Les (played by three different individuals for the Hartford performance dates). Meanwhile, Joseph Pulitzer (Steve Blanchard) has decided to charge deliverers more to sell his New York World.
This is a Disney show and based upon an actual strike in 1899 which was led by Kid Blink. The rich versus poor motif is highlighted. Little Les, Jack, and Davey find happiness in a place called Medda's Theater. Jack also happens to be a talented visual artist. Jack spots an attractive, red-haired woman who seems to be a journalist. Her name is Katherine (Morgan Keene); this foreshadows an end-of-production sweet romance. Jack spurs a protest and he, Davey, Les and other newsies collaborate on "The World Will Know."
In terms of theme and plot, Newsies is about poor, young working people's courage to stand up to Pulitzer, Hearst and others. One of the rousing numbers of the show is "Seize the Day," rendered by Davey, Jack and newsies late in the first act; it is reprised well into the show. Davey becomes catalytic in the strike against New York World.
The second act begins in a place called Jacobi's Deli as Katherine enlivens the downtrodden group of newsies with an article she has written. "Letter from the Refuge" is a lovely tune delivered by actor Sayle, who makes for a terrific Crutchie. We do find out that Jack has a record for thievery. When he and Pulitzer have a conversation, the publisher notes that Katherine is his daughter. A compromise is in the offing, as proposed by Pulitzer, if the strike is quashed. Should you be one who attends theater with hopes that such stories include happy resolution, you will be quite delighted with the ending of this musical.
Newsies won Tony Awards in 2012 for both its music and dance. Harvey Fierstein wrote the book while Alan Menken composed music and Jack Feldman contributed lyrics. Jeff Calhoun directed and Christopher Gattelli created the choreography. Danny Troob is orchestrator and the music is both supervised and arranged by Michael Kosarin. Each imaginative designer contributed something special, but Tobin Ost must be singled out. His sets are both appropriate and clever. They include a rooftop, the Brooklyn Bridge and other locales many of which benefit from scaffoldsslid and wheeled around and about.
As the boy wishing for sunshine and fresher air, actor Barreiro (the leading Jack) is strong on character and he's an able if not show-stopping vocalist. Both Sayle, as Crutchie, and Langton, playing Davey, are sweet singing young men. Keene imbues Katherine with strength, warmth, and compassion. Her solo, "Watch What Happens" is most inviting. Steve Blanchard is solid and consistent as Pulitzer.
Gattelli's choreography and its startlingly adept execution by the touring troupe is not simply absorbing but, at times, electrifying. These actors must be gymnastic, pliable, and on the mark for each and every moment.
Director Calhoun manages and coaches a number of individual leads and an ensemble, too. He prods the show forward, paces with energy, and creates an excitement early on. Thus, it is difficult to resist Newsies, a showcase for this nifty company.
Newsies continues at the Bushnell in Hartford, Connecticut through October 18th, 2015. For ticket information, call (860) 987-5900 or visit bushnell.org For more information on the tour, visit www.newsiesthemusical.com/.