A stunning production, the National Tour of Disney’s Newsies exceeds all expectations. While the 1992 movie may have been a flop, which has now become a cult classic, Disney’s stage version of the musical soars with mesmerizing choreography, an inspiring story and catchy music.
Newsies tells the story of the 1899 newsboys strike in New York City. A David and Goliath story, the musical follows a rag tag group of runaways, orphans and working class news boys, led by newsie Jack Kelly (Dan DeLuca), as they discover the power of standing together against the abusive tactics of the newspaper publishers. Featuring music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Jack Feldman, and a book by Harvey Fierstein, Newsies won the Tony Award® for Best Score and Best Choreography.
This production captures all the magic and all the spectacle that the Broadway show presented. The young cast exudes the perfect amount of energy for the show – all while displaying incredible talent. The cast is at its best during “Seize the Day.” Sure, some of the ensemble members are the not the best actors, but their singing and dancing far make up for that fact.
In the lead Dan DeLuca creates a memorable rebel as Jack. His cocky demeanor works well, and his smooth voice sounds wonderful in numbers such as “Santa Fe” and in his duet with Stephanie Style’s’ Katherine in “Something to Believe In.” Likewise Styles makes performing the Sondheimesque “Watch What Happens” seem easy.
This cast, compared to the original Broadway cast, lacks the stage presence of the company led by Jeremy Jordan, but that fact could be more by design than happenstance. With no one standing out, this cast allows for each member to have a moment to shine.
For the touring version, Menken and Feldman wrote a new song for Crutchie to sing during the second act, where he appears briefly after having a large presence in the first act. The song, “Letter from the Refuge,” adds depth to the relationship between Crutchie and Jack. Zachary Sayle performs the number well, but the placement of the scene is awkward. It feels as though it was just dropped in.
While some musicals do not translate well to a large house such as the Fox Theatre, this one works well in the space. The production numbers fill the stage and dazzle the audience just as well as they did in the smaller house on Broadway, especially during the pinnacle moment of the number “Once and For All.”
The production wasn’t without a few hiccups though. The sound’s mix was not well suited for the house, resulting in a low volume at times, making it hard to distinguish the lyrics to some of the songs. Additionally, there was crackling from the microphones in too many places to remain unmentioned.
The musical is everything that classic Broadway offered with its amazing dance sequences, great score and memorable peformances. Now playing at Atlanta’s Fox Theatre as part of the Fifth Third Bank Broadway in Atlanta Series, Newsies plays through January 25, 2015. Tickets are available online, at the Fox Theatre box office or by phone at 855-285-8499. The show’s runtime is about two and a half hours with an intermission.
– Kenny Norton