NEWSIES, the Tony Award winning production, based on the 1992 Disney movie began its limited premiere engagement at the Center for Performing Arts this past Tuesday.
Inspired by the real life news boy strike of 1889, NEWSIES tells the story of Jack Kelly (Joey Barreio) and his rag tag band of fellow ‘newsies’ as they go up against the hard-fisted, profit chasing newsman, Joseph Pulitzer (Steve Blanchard) and William Hearst. The newsies, a group of mostly young street boys barely get by on the small wages paid for selling the “papes”. When news is slow and paper sales go down, Pulitzer raises distribution pricess ease his losses at the expense of the young newsies. Faced with the choice between accepting the wage cut and struggling even more to get by, or fighting for what is fair, the newsies rally around their leader and the cause leading to a city wide newsboy strike.
As the story advances, we meet several other characters such as Katherine, an aspiring reporter trying to break into a male dominated profession, (played tonight by Becca Petersen), Medda Larkin, a vaudeville star, political insider and ally to the newsies and the Governor (soon to be President) Roosevelt, a symbol of political power. While NEWSIES takes place over 100 years ago, the issues of income disparity, media control / bias, women’s right and government corruption all remain as relevant now as they were then. But this is a Disney production, so the story only gets deep enough to allow for catchy numbers and a larger cast. This show is not here to push a social agenda.
There a couple of stand-out solo performances, such as Crutchie’s performance of ‘Letter from the Refuge’, but what really makes NEWSIES so wildly entertaining is number after number of hard hitting ensemble dance performances. The choreography is full of flipping, leaping and pirouettes highlighting the immense talent and athleticism of the cast. The powerful ‘Seize the Day’ had the audience screaming and wanting more. The entire cast was fantastic, but the leaps by Jordan Samuels and spins by Chaz Wolcott elicited the most screams from the audience.
In the end, the charismatic Jack negotiates a compromise for the newsies and sparks a movement to improve working conditions for child workers across the city. In true Disney fashion, all the other story lines wrap up neatly and the cast members all live happily ever after.
There is something for everyone in NEWSIES, but there is definitely a strong teen following. I cannot recall another Broadway San Jose show in recent history with such an enthusiastic audience. The newsies draw a crowd of young theater kids who follow them from city to city going to as many performances as possible. Watching the crowd swarm the stage door was entertainment in itself.
NEWSIES plays now through Sunday, May 15 at the Center for Performing Arts (255 Almaden Blvd.). Tickets for NEWSIES are available now via www.ticketmaster.com or by calling 800-982-ARTS (2787)