Newsies ~ 2019

Written on July 1st, 2019

Amazing Dance Will Blow You Away!

For dance fans, Newsies is the ultimate show.  Based on the true story of the 1899 newsboys’ strike in New York City, Newsies was created first as a Disney movie in 1992, and then re-made for Broadway, winning the Tony for best choreography in 2012.  On stage at Huron Country Playhouse, this production of Newsies by Drayton Entertainment marks its Canadian premiere.

Simply put, this performance is Broadway quality.  From the dance numbers to the detailed set, it certainly tops the Broadway tour I saw in Toronto in 2015.  If you are fan of high speed dance and detailed and precise choreography, don’t miss this show. 

In 1899, boys, usually orphans, lived together in ghetto-like buildings.  They had to purchase a quantity of newspapers each day from the big New York City publishers and then turn around and sell them on the streets.  When publishers Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst raised the price of a bundle of newspapers, the newsboys or “newsies” went on strike and refused to sell the papers.  Circulation dropped dramatically, and Pulitzer met with the boys to end the strike. They were able to get the big publishers to repay them for any papers not sold.

The musical story features newsie Jack Kelly who longs for the day when he can leave New York for Santa Fe.  His best friend is Crutchie, a disabled newsie.  Joining them in selling “papes” (papers) are Davey and Les, brothers whose father has lost his job, forcing them to quit school and look for work.  Despite their difficult circumstances, Davey and Les are still better off than the orphans.  A young female reporter covers the strike and becomes Jack’s love interest – there is a twist in the tale that I won’t reveal as it could be a plot spoiler.

It is a spellbinding production, just for the dance.  A cast of 10 newsboys keeps the show lively with energetic choreography.  They are constantly leaping, cartwheeling and flipping across the stage, toes barely touching the floor.  A powerful tap dance number has the audience enthralled with its magic.  Credit goes to choreographer Marc Kimelman for the amazing footwork.

The entire show, like the dance numbers, is very fast paced thanks to director David Connolly.  Powerful music with an excellent band under the direction of Mark Camilleri gives us a feel for the score.  Memorable tunes, such as “Seize the Day”, and “King of New York” keep the show lively.

Kale Penny stars as Jack Kelly, the newsboy who leads the strike.  Penny achieves the charisma that Jack must have possessed.  Julia McLellan is Katherine, the lively and aggressive reporter who becomes his love interest.  McLellan shines in the role with perfect comedic timing and touching moments.  She shows Katherine’s vulnerability with “Watch What Happens” as she pounds the typewriter.  Later she and Penny have a heartwarming duet with “Something to Believe In”.

Gregory Pember tugs our heartstrings as Crutchie and gives an emotional reading of his letter when he’s captured and imprisoned.  Daniel Greenberg is Davey, the newsie who isn’t an orphan.  Greenberg charms the audience as he learns about street life, and his singing is spot on.  His little brother is played by Thomas Winiker, a truly amazing 11 year old.  He handles the big role perfectly – watch for his name in the future.

The set is absolutely outstanding thanks to set designer Brian Dudkiewicz.  The audience has the feel of the tenements of 1890s New York with its steel structures and fire escapes.  The structures move quickly around the stage as necessary in keeping with the lively show.  In fact, there is a scene of stairway choreography. The attention to detail is evident.

Newsies has an interesting plot with a love story.  But it is the dance that will amaze audiences.  For those who enjoy watching deftly choreographed and tightly synchronized big dance numbers with very nimble young dancers, Newsies is not to be missed.

Newsies will be on stage at Huron Country Playhouse, Grand Bend until July 27.  Tickets are available by calling the Box Office 519-238-6000 or Toll Free 1-855-372-9866, or check www.huroncountryplayhouse.com

Photo: Amazing dance in Disney’s Newsies at Huron Country Playhouse.  Photo by Hilary Gauld Camilleri.

Newsies
Music by Alan Menken
Lyrics by Jack Feldman
Book by Harvey Fierstein
Directed by David Connolly
Choreographed by Marc Kimelman
Musical Direction by Mark Camilleri
Performed by George Absi, Josh Assor, Alex Batycki, Keiran Bohay, Ethan Bucholtz, George Burden-Cheresna, Louise Camilleri, Michael Cox, Simone A. Denny, Graeme Goodhall, Daniel Greenberg, Taran Kim, Julia McLellan, Kyla Musselman, Gregory Pember, Kale Penny, Stephen Sparks, Eamon Stocks, Robbie Towns, Jesse Weafer, Thomas Winiker, Sandy Winsby.
Drayton Entertainment Production
Huron Country Playhouse, Grand Bend – June 27 to July 13, 2019
St. Jacobs Country Playhouse, St. Jacobs – July 18 to August 3, 2019
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

 

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