Extra, Extra, Read All About It… “Newsies!”

Pittsburgh Musical Theater (PMT) Byham Series debuted Disney’s Newsies, May 2, 2019.

Newsies has a pretty interesting history, beginning in 1992 as a Disney musical film starring Christian Bale, Bill Pullman and Robert Duvall.  It was a box office flop. I was a teen in the 90’s, passionate about theater and film, so I wondered why Friday evenings performance was my first Newsies ever, on stage or film.  A little pre-show Googling led me to tried and true film critic Roger Ebert’s 1992 1.5 star review.  About the film version, Ebert states, “The music is by Alan Menken, whose material for “The Little Mermaid” and “Beauty And The Beast” (1991)  was unforgettable. Here he achieves the opposite result.”(https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/newsies-1992)

PMT’s Newsies Cast

No wonder I’ve skipped Newsies all these years!  What I also failed to follow was the sensation Newsies became after premiering on Broadway in 2012.  Tony Awards and numerous Drama Desk Awards should have clued me in.  Instead, it took my 15 year old daughter’s obsession with the 2017 live film version streaming on Netflix, before I added it to my theatrical bucket list.

If you too have been sidestepping Newsies, “Seize the Day” and secure your seats for one of Broadway’s most beloved musicals is playing now. I don’t think you will be disappointed.

The newsies give a rallying cry!

Directed by Trey Compton, Newsies is a fiercely energetic show boasting a cast of 35 performers, including the most dynamic ensemble I have ever seen on a Pittsburgh stage.  The plot is loosely based on the 1899 New York newsies strike against newspaper publishes Pulitzer and Hearst. Jack Kelly (David Toole) a young newsie, shares a dream with his close buddy and fellow newsie, Crutchie (Niko Touros) of wanting to relocate to Santa Fe, in the opening prologue, “Santa Fe”.  Through a series of events, Kelly inadvertently becomes the unassuming leader for child laborers. With help from brothers Davey (Patrick J Clark) and Les Jacobs (Luca Boudreau) the plight of the newsies find many allies, including Medda Larkin (Myah Davis) owner of a red- light district theater, Katherine Plumber, (Whitney Noelle) ambitious newspaper reporter and fellow newsies from boroughs across the city.

With a strike instigated and talk of unionizing under way, Pulitzer (Allan Snyder) isn’t the only adversary the newsies face. The menacing Snyder (Hank Fodor) owner of The Refuge orphanage, a shelter more squalid than the city’s streets, actively pursues Kelly throughout the show. In Act 2, additional conflicts with the police, scabs, Wiesel (Michael Misko) who manages the newspaper distribution and Pulitzer’s employees, Oscar and Morris Delancey (Lawrence Karl, Zander Lyons) ensure the show is teeming with action up until the very end.

David Toole, cast as leading man Jack Kelly, is one of the most genuine performers I have seen on stage in a very long time. He swept me off my feet

Whitney Noelle as Katherine and David Toole as Jack

during “I Never Planned On You,” and I am crazy for the intensity invested  in “The World Will Know,” as well as Act 2’s “Once And For All.” As front-runner in Pittsburgh’s, Identity X, a sophisticated, alternative rock band, there are times when that voice emerges and it fits perfectly.  Toole’s duet “Something To Believe In” with leading lady Noelle was a testament to the talent of both performers.  Each time Noelle sang a note I was pleasantly surprised with the power of her voice.

The ensemble is high-energy, animated and a blast to watch.  The exquisitely executed dance scenes choreographed by Natalie Malotke’s are enhancing.  I adore tap numbers and found “King of New York” to be thoroughly entertaining, especially Boudreau who steals the scene tapping on a table!   “Seize The Day” incorporates dance and a superb fight number coached by Compton. There are no dull moments in Newsies.

Reflecting, for just a moment on Ebert’s criticism of Menken’s music, Newsies is top- tapping, heart racing, harmonizing melodies.  The songs are catchy, sing-along, add to your show tune playlist now, kinda songs. Certainly far from forgettable, I have been humming a few all weekend.

Find out for yourself.

Newsies is showing through May 12. Ticket information can be found at PMT’s site.

Photography Credit: Melissa Wallace

Megan Grabowski works full time for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania but for fun she enjoys volunteering, as a trustee for the Crafton Public Library Board, the Girl Scouts and as a contributor to Pittsburgh in the Round. Megan grew up attending community theater performances with her parents and relishes the escapism and adventure live productions provide.  Now, a mother to 2 teenage daughters, Megan is thrilled to see her girls enjoying live shows, performing on stage and creating playlists of their favorite showtunes. To keep up on writing trends, news and cool cultural stuff, follow Megan on Facebook @mjgrabowskiwordsmith.

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