The big, bold, high energy production, “Newsies: The Broadway Musical,” with a historically based event-filled storyline loaded with rousing music – belting solos and phenomenal ensembles – and incredible, energetic, unrelenting, dancing rife with physical moves you can’t imagine is positively boundless.
The acrobatics, flying flips and soaring splits were positively over-the-top. A five-star cast of about 24 performing artists – many playing several roles – impressed, engaged, entertained and thrilled us all in the opening night audience. Further, the creative staging, the sets, the costumes and even the props enhanced and added layers of excitement and appreciation to our total enjoyment of the show.
By the way, now would be the perfect time to point out that “Newsies” is a wonderful musical experience for families. The music, the energetic dancing and the fact-based storyline are well suited for young people, starting at about age 10.
The plotline offers a leitmotif about honor, trust, values, respect, family, friendship, loyalty and standing up for what is right – and graciously compromising when it is appropriate.
Disney’s “Newsies,” which references the actual historical events of 1899 in New York City, offered details and a close-up look at the impact of those events on the lives of a wonderful, spirited, rag-tag group of young newspaper sellers – whom we got to know and love in no time. We also met the amazing mixed bag of characters who may have brought the events to the surface and who definitely contributed to their outcome.
Our star, Jack Kelly (Tim Quartier) – bright and capable, a natural leader and grounded in what’s right – lead the play action, as he found that the heads of two competing New York newspapers, Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst, raised the cost of the newspapers the newsies must buy in order to make their daily sales.
Responding to the unfair business practices, he gathered a group of “business associates,” and against all likelihood, they formed a union. At great risk, took their requirements before these powerful, publisher tycoons. The impact of their actions were far broader than they even imagined. By story’s end, the newsies had a contract they appreciated, and corruption in the city government was being challenged, right up from the mayor to the governor, Theodore Roosevelt.
Joining Jack Kelly in advancing the storyline were Davey, (Daniel Schwartzberg); his younger brother Les (Christopher Nguyen), who, at age 10 and a student on Hilton Head Island, offered a simply knock-out performance; Crutchie (Chris Renalds), Jack’s best friend, who added depth and sensitivity; and Katherine (Julie Kavanaugh), who brought insight, direction, balance and romance.
I must say, again, that the lead performers were supported impressively by the entire cast, many performing those multiple roles – from a famous singer, to union scabs, and Brooklyn newsies to policemen and guards, and some questionable brothers to a gathering of nuns and to bowery beauties.
The musical numbers were familiar, hummable and “sing-a-long-able.” I was totally taken with all of the full-on productions, but most memorable and impressive started right away with “Santa Fe.” The show moved directly to another favorite, “The World Will Know,” and then “Seize the Day.”
The second act starts off with a knock-your-socks-off “King of New York,” which has everything and everybody – tap dancing for starters, then all of the leaps and bounds and barrel rolls we’d come to anticipate. There are moments in this production when everybody is airborne at the same time.
“Newsies” was offered against the most intriguing set, which perfectly prepares us for the time and place in which the story began. Giant scaffolding, which soars above and almost completely fills the stage, and depending on its purpose, often reminded me of enormous random sections of stained and even grimy discarded erector set pieces.
As the structure was maneuvered to accommodate the flow of the storyline, we saw the suggestion of a cityscape, an open-air bedroom that Jack and Crutchie shared, a newspaper office, a print shop and even a glimpse at The Refuge – a kind of awful home for “wayward” orphans.
The production, which hit Broadway in 2012 and ran for two years before going on a national tour, offers songs by Oscar-winning composer Alan Menken and lyricist Jack Feldman and a book by Harvey Fierstein. The show received eight Tony nominations and two wins and was the basis of a recently filmed version of the production.
Mark Martino gathered and directed the most gifted performers, many from New York and points north, many making debuts on the Arts Center stage and several making repeat appearances – all to the most impressive outcome.
The high-energy dancing, the physicality, the jumps, pirouettes, spins and rolls, the gymnastics, in our production of “Newsies,” were overseen by Drama Desk-nominee and choreographer Shea Sullivan, who with the amazing company of dancers, took the show way over the top at every turn. The outstanding music direction came from Helen Gregory, the scenic design by Charles Kading, and costume design by Jennifer van Buskirk.
What a success! What a show!
Artist, musician, teacher and writer Nancy K. Wellard focuses on portraying and promoting the cultural arts, first in Los Angeles and, for close to 30 years, in the Lowcountry. Email her at email@example.com.
If you go
- What: “Newsies”
- Where: Arts Center of Coastal Carolina
- When: Runs through Dec. 31
- Details, tickets: 843-842-2787, www.artshhi.com