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Theater Review: "Newsies" On Broadway

Katie Buenneke |
April 23, 2012 | 2:51 p.m. PDT

Theater Editor

 Deen Van Meer
Deen Van Meer
"Now is the time to seize the day" indeed! As the cast of "Newsies," now playing on Broadway, hits number after number out of the park, it would seem that time is of the essence in getting oneself to New York to see the show. As of right now, "Newsies" is scheduled to finish its limited engagement on August 19, but there's plenty of speculation that it is just a matter of time before the show's run becomes open-ended.

"Newsies," which is based on the movie of the same name from 20 years ago, and inspired by real-life events, follows Jack Kelly (Jeremy Jordan, "Bonnie & Clyde"), a young newspaper seller, and his ragamuffin group of friends as they form a union to protest a price hike, thanks to their boss, Joseph Pulitzer (John Dossett). Reporter Katherine Plummer (Kara Lindsay) catches the whiff of an interesting story, and decides to cover the Newsies' plight.

While the show is certainly flawed (for one, Harvey Fierstein's book is remarkably lacking in subtlety), it is just so jubilant that it is impossible not to love it. Composer Alan Menken is at his finest in years, and his work with lyricist Jack Feldman is often astonishing—"Watch What Happens" breathes new life into the patter song. The cast sings the score to exhilarating effect.

Another strength of the show is in its dancing. Choreographer Christopher Gattelli has outlined an ambitious show for the ensemble, but they more than deliver. The dancing is phenomenal, and challenges the limits of human ability; indeed, dance captain Ryan Steele's seemingly infinite pirouette makes him seem more a piece in a music box than a real human being! As the newsboys jump, flip, and spin across the stage, the audience has no choice but to be awestruck by their breathtaking dancing ability.

Jeremy Jordan, who was utterly wonderful in "Bonnie and Clyde" earlier this season, is just as compelling a performer as before,  and illuminates the entire stage as Jack Kelly, the group's de facto leader. He plays well opposite Kara Lindsay's Katherine, and he and the band of fantastic newsboys have a wonderful camaraderie.

Like Jordan, director Jeff Calhoun worked on "Bonnie and Clyde," and there is certainly a similarity to that show's creative elements. The scenic design, by Tobin Ost, is simple, but the three versatile towers create an interesting world for the show. Unfortunately, Ken Travis' sound design seems to flatten some of the show's verve.

"Newsies" hearkens back to the traditions of Golden Age musicals, and it is all the better for it. The show is a good ol' fashioned fun trip to the theater, and the family-friendly fare is reminiscent of classic movies and musicals like "Singin' in the Rain" and "Anything Goes." "Newsies" is one of the best times to be had on Broadway.

Reach Katie here or follow her on Twitter @kelisabethb.

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