TO SEE OR NOT TO SEE: “Newsies”
Get caught up with what’s on stage with our review round-up. And that vaguely hollow, clinking sound you hear at the end of each segment? That’s me tossing in my two cents…
Like the story’s paperboys on strike, the film flop turned Broadway musical rises up to seize the day in a dance-filled adaptation from Harvey Fierstein, Alan Menkin & Jack Feldman and directed by Jeff Calhoun.
“Disney has unveiled its finest fairy tale in over a decade…Newsies will be many young fans’ first Broadway experience. They’ll emerge knowing they’re not alone, and that there’s not just strength in numbers, but rhythm and harmony, too.” New York Magazine
“…it’s the attractive young cast and the high-energy physicality of Jeff Calhoun’s production that make the show so engaging.” The Hollywood Reporter
“…Disney’s happiest outing since The Lion King.” Variety
“…all set in extra-large type, all goal-posted with exclamation points and all proclaiming essentially the same thing.” New York Times
Mizer’s Two Cents: If you’re looking for the next post-Sondheim study in ambivalence or a forward-thinking musical hybrid…what are you doing at a show called Disney’s Newsies anyway? No, this is a grinning splash of old-school music theater hutzpah, bubbling over thanks to the kinetic thrill of watching young dancers show off. Director Jeff Calhoun and choreographer Christopher Gattelli expertly keep the cast, enormous staircases and spirits spinning. Sure, you could wish that the show took a baby step further developing the motivating deprivations (unemployment, hunger and a horrific children’s home are spoken of but not really dramatized, so the stakes feel a bit weightless no matter how many fisticuffs the boys get into) — but that’s not what this musical is selling. These newsboys are singing from every street corner about how moxie, teamwork and huge stag leaps can win the day.
In the spirit of the musical, let me stand up for the underdogs, two contributors who I feel might not be singled out. Composer Alan Menken and bookwriter Harvey Fierstein may be the marquee names, but Jack Feldman’s lyrics are the best kind of simple, tickling the ear when necessary and earnest without being cliche. Star Jeremy Jordan may get the headlines, but his leading lady Kara Lindsay is the sweet anchor of the show (her character is a smart script addition not found in the film). She manages to be an old-fashioned spunky gal (an intrepid girl reporter no less) while being relatable, bright and just the right touch of insecure. In fact, the best number in the show is her song with the ensemble, “King of New York”. It doesn’t have the showiest choreography, but it grabs you because you’re watching a person you identify with at its center. Very few of us can tumble and leap like the men of the ensemble, but we all know what it feels like to pick up our skirts and let loose for the first time.