(Note: This is neither an official review nor I am a professional reviewer.)
I am no expert in all things Broadway or musical plays in general. I have seen quite a few that had interest me and had gained my respect. But I also know what a good show and what a bad show. Like this one “West End” production of a musical play here in Cebu that I was eager to watch because it’s “West End”, but when it started, it’s like watching a Kindergarten’s production of a play (no offense). All things considered though, the theater isn’t that big to have a full blown Broadway or West End production. Newsies on the other hand isn’t a good show, but it’s a GREAT show! Good is an understatement in describing how amazing the show is. From the set to the dance routines and of course the singing. So before I’m getting started, I just want you to know that this is mostly my personal opinion about the show, so you might as well take it with a grain of salt.
A short synopsis, the musical is about a group of newspaper boys, Newsies, that sells New York World, a printing press company that distributes newspapers in the city. Newsies then have to pay 50 cents per hundred and has to sell every single paper. Then the New York World increased the price to 60 cents per hundred to gain more than his competitor, giving the Newsies a new burden that leads to a series of chaotic events.
The show started at the “Penthouse” of Jack Kelly (Jeremy Jordan) on the rooftop with his best friend, Crutchie (Andrew Keenan-Bolger), where Jack talked about his dream of going to a place where it’s clean and green and pretty, Santa Fe. He talked about the place as if he has been there and he compared people from small places wanting to go to big cities like New York, but he is the opposite, he’s from a big city who wants to live in a small place where there are no buildings. As they started singing, you can feel the hope, desire and the pain of two orphan boys wanting to have a change in life. I found this scene moving as it shows a 17 year old orphan who was forced to work to survive and to strive yet dreamed to go somewhere, a paradise, a place where he can start anew. Then the bell rang, which meant they had to get ready to sell “papes” on the street. Which then launched what would become their anthem, Carrying the Banner.
Carrying the Banner is a song performed in a way that encapsulates the essence of being newsies. The production of this scene was amazing, with a screen projection technology that projects scenes and the sky-towering set that revealed the rest of the ensemble. The set moves and changes from time to time, and the accuracy of the set changes was impeccable. Sometimes you wonder if they had accidents during the rehearsals because of how big those steel structures are that moves back and forth and sometimes turn to give a different view. The choreography was spot on, paired that with singing and you have a hard core performance. It is also this part of the show where three nuns handing over some left over foods to the newsies which showed the awful and drastic situation these boys had. But what makes this performance enjoyable to watch is how graceful and accurate the entire cast. With those extreme ballet skills and the proper command on the stage, it gives a whole new definition to Broadway musical.
Two new Newsies, Davey (Ben Fankhauser) and his young brother Les (Ethan Steiner), were introduced as it progressed. Jack and Davey was an unlikely duo to start as Jack is a laid-back, chill kind of a guy, while Davey is an obedient, by the book kind of a guy. While selling papes on the streets of Manhattan, New York, Jack met Katherine (Kara Lindsay), where Jack was flirting with her and she wasn’t having it. Although they’ve met again after Jack, Davey and Les ran away from Snyder who runs a refuge for orphaned children, at a vaudeville-style theater owned by Medda Larkin (Aisha de Haas). At the theater, Medda showed to the boys Jack’s painting, which tells a different side of the main character. Jack paints these beautiful landscapes for the show’s backdrop and even drew Katherine while she was watching the show, where Medda performed That’s Rich that showed her prowess, and there she saw a different Jack, an artist.
Everything changed after Mr. Pulitzer (Steve Blanchard), owner of the New York World, changed the price of the papers. It outraged the newsies and Jack organized a strike against Mr. Pulitzer. It showed that Jack isn’t a boy anymore, but a man, a leader. With the help of Davey they started a union, they then performed The World Will Know. It tells the anger these boys felt and that they will stand for what’s right and that it is the start of a revolution that will change how the world sees them.
They had given Katherine a chance to have them on the front page. Katherine then performed Watch What Happens, a fun yet difficult song to perform if I may add. The song is about the pressure she’s having to produce a good article for the boys to be on the front page. I just love how Kara delivered the song, she was amazing and her breathing was great. Kara was as convincing as she was during the original Broadway production which she originated the role.
It was followed by a performance that honest to God, words can’t describe it. Seize the Day was a number that encouraged the other newsies to fight with them. There were a lot of great parts in the show, but this is probably one of the greatest parts, it’s not just because of how intricate and breathtaking the routine, but this was the only part of the show where the audience had given them a standing ovation after a song and dance performance, to which the cast had to pause to soak all those appreciation before moving on with the show. I had never seen a musical number that was given a standing ovation while the show is not yet finished. It shows to prove the cast and crew’s dedication in creating a marvelous show that makes everyone stop what they’re doing. One character that took my attention was Race (Ben Cook) where he had that cigar in his mouth the entire time, like dude how did it not fall off the ground? The routine was stunning, the ballet was beyond amazing with those theatrics, and the singing was top notch. It pains me to watch it without Ryan Steel who played Specs in the original production with his signature routine, the pirouette. But that doesn’t mean they weren’t any good, I was just used to seeing him doing his part and I have grown an appreciation of him. My favorite part was when they ripped newspapers in half and dance on it with this precise choreography and after which they threw them to the audience. It gave a strong message, how a single strike can change the whole world. Like I said, words can’t describe how astonishing it was, it needs to be experienced. Christopher Gattelli, you are one hell of a choreographer. You deserved that Tony!
Although it ended badly when the authorities tried to stop them, leaving the newsies with no choice but to retreat and as they were fleeing, Crutchie was caught and stroke with his own crutch by Mr. Snyder. He was sent to the refuge. Jack saw it all happened and felt hopeless that he couldn’t save his bestfriend. On the roof top, Jack reflected on what happened. He then sang Sante Fe, a song that still makes me tear up whenever I hear it. It’s a song about his yearning on leaving New York and go somewhere far away. It’s full of emotion as it describes Jack’s hope, dreams and pain. Jeremy’s performance has always been amazing even from the original Broadway production which he originated the role. He captured the emotion of the song and delivered it in a most convincing way, given the fact that he had to ran all over the set and had to sing a big, powerful song. He was amazing with that thick New Yorker accent, which by the way, the ensemble had to have this thick New Yorker accent. This song ended the first act.
For the second act, it started with King of New York, a dance performance that I love. This part was preceded with Katherine given them the papes with their faces on the front page. They were happy and glee, for once in their life, they have become famous. The song showed their desires in life when you’re famous. It involved tap dancing, brooms and spoons. Tap dancing has always been my favorite dance routine in any show. Their skills were amazing as tap dance involves hardwork and a lot of coordination. One particular part of the dance when one Newsie doing a tap dance standing still while his right foot was moving. It was also a delight to see Les tap dancing and singing as well, I mean come on, he’s a little boy who knows how to tap, I can’t even walk perfectly straight. The whole spectacle was something to look forward. I don’t know about you but something about tap dance that creates music to my ears.
It was then succeeded with a new and special song that was added to give a glimpse of what happened to Crutchie at the refuge, the song is Letter from the Refuge. In the original Broadway production, which Andrew originated the role, after he was captured, Crutchie appeared almost at the last part of the show. The addition of this part makes perfect sense as we could have an idea of where and what happened to him. Andrew’s performance of this song makes me cry all the time. The delivery of the song was flawless, with his voice and watery eyes that will surely envelope your heart in pain. The song was beautiful, full of emotion, his pain, his hope and his desire to be with Jack in Santa Fe. I’ve heard of this song plenty of times and yet it doesn’t fail to bring tears to my eyes. Crutchie’s closing line gave me all the feels in the world. I won’t give too much of it, it’s something that has to be seen and heard to experience the pain we felt.
A good story is without its twist and turn. After they have convinced Jack to get back from hiding, Jack found out that Katherine is the daughter of Mr. Pulitzer, the owner of New York World. It’s an interesting twist of events that adds to the tension of what was already happening. Determined to continue, Katherine went up to Jack’s penthouse and discovered Jack’s drawings of the refuge, graphic illustrations of the situation and the conditions of the orphans, as Jack himself was a refugee and escaped, and had stolen some foods and things to give to the other kids in the refuge. He’s like the Robin Hood of Manhattan. Their duet, Something to Believe In is what every young couple would want to hear. Their chemistry was undeniable and you can tell that they perfected their roles as Jack and Katherine respectively.
Then another song came along, Once and For All, a song that involves the Newsies of New York secretly printed flyers inviting the Children of New York to rally against oppression. A particular part of the song that I believed best described my country before; “There’s change coming once and for all, you’re getting too old, too weak to keep holding on. A new world is gunning for you, and Joe we is too, till once and for all, you’re gone”. I particularly like this part as this can be related to a certain context in our society. It speaks about the Oligarchs controlling our society and have manipulated us to break our backs for them. It’s a strong message towards them who oppress the poor and the marginalized and only think about their interest and their gains, disregarding the condition and the situation of the common people. I don’t want to be political, but change has finally come. Which is what happened, Mr. Pulitzer made a deal with Jack and the Newsies of New York won their battle.
Although some of the original casts weren’t there, I enjoyed watching it. The performances were incredible, it’s evident from the crowd who enjoyed the show. Even though Ryan wasn’t around, it’s great to see Tommy Bracco, who played Spot in the original production, part of the Brooklyn Newsies. I was literally smiling from ear to ear when I saw him and it filled the void that was left by Ryan’s absence. Ben Fankhauser anyway has always been someone I look forward since I saw the original production, although a bootleg version (can’t afford it though). I do hope he was given or his character a solo performance where we can really see his ability and his prowess as an actor. His voice was amazing and I can’t wait to watch his performance in Spring Awakening as Ernst.
The entire show is something to look forward to, it’s a kind of a musical that has to be seen than just to read something about it. Words can’t describe the complexity of the dance routines. I have never seen something like as the Newsies, that wows everyone with their choreography. The production was great, those mechanical steel structures were a sight, they just keep on moving and sometimes you wonder if anyone has been squished in between, but hopefully no one got hurt. If you haven’t read my other post, Newsies is part of my bucket list of musicals to watch live. For someone living in the Philippines, I rely mostly on bootlegs, and if they will release a movie version of the Broadway production, like Disney did, then it would be a gem. Although there is a Philippine production of Newsies by Globe at Bonifacio High Street Amphitheater, going to Manila is something to save money for. But if you’re in Manila, go check them out and see it for yourself. I promise you, you will leave the theater wanting more. Maybe that’s the part of the show that I didn’t like, is that it ended. I want more!!! Music and Lyrics by Alan Menken and Jack Feldman, thank you for those wonderful and inspiring songs. Directed by Jeff Calhoun, who for me did an amazing and incredible job. To the entire cast and crew of the show, Congratulations for a job well done!
Anyway this has been a long “review” that turned out to be a summary of the show, did not go the why I planned it. I didn’t go so much into details because I don’t want to spoil the musical for you.
Newsies: The Broadway Musical will be returning to cinemas in US on August 5 & 9. (Like literally on my birthday!!! Seriously?!!!)
If you’re in Manila, book your tickets now. They will run from July 7 to 30, 2017.
Once again, thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed it. Comment below what you think I miss (pretty sure I missed a lot) and what you think of the show.