Disney's Newsies The Musical is running at the Nederlander Theatre on Broadway. The wonderful music is by Alan Menken with lyrics by Jack Feldman and the book is by Harvey Fierstein. The story is based on the Disney film about the 1899 newspaper boys strike and won two Tony Awards this year for Best Choreography and Best Original Score. Newsies The Musical contains songs from the movie, as well as several new numbers.
Jeremy Jordan is "Jack Kelly," the face of Newsies and the classic triple threat. I didn't get too caught up in young men trying to play boys; obviously some of the dancers were probably shorter than the norm, but were easy to spot outside the theatre even out of costume. They were without exception incredible dancers and the choreography was truly amazing. Ben Fankhauser plays "Davey" and at the Wednesday matinee his younger brother "Les" is played by Matthew J. Schechter, who bears a striking resemblance to his "brother." For a local connection, the young actor who shares the role of "Les," Lewis Grosso, played "Giovanni" in the workshop of opens at the Warner this weekend. John Dossett is blustery as publisher Joseph Pulitzer. Andrew Keenan-Bolger plays "Crutchie" on a crutch with a turned-in foot and appropriately had a lot less dancing than they other boys. Ensemble member Kevin Carolan also made a convincing "Governor Roosevelt."
The stage adaptation writes out Jack's original love interest "Sarah Jacobs" and the New York Sun reporter "Brian Denton," who writes about the Newsboys. They are replaced by the composite character "Katherine Plumber," a reporter played by the glowing Kara Lindsey in her Broadway debut. She and many of the cast members played their same roles at the world premier of Newsies at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey in 2011. Capathia Jenkins is also excellent in the role of burlesque theatre owner "Medda Larkin" with large wigs and costumes and a voice to match when she sings "That's Rich."
One of the best parts of this show for me was how much I enjoyed seeing a stage full of talented men, both young and mature. There are the two female leads and only three ladies in the large ensemble. Perhaps showcasing so many amazing guys was intended to attract more males into the theatre; there certainly were a fair amount of very well-behaved children of both genders in the standing room only audience. My youngest son loved it and of course kept his eyes on the pit musicians until they played the last note of the curtain call, while everyone else headed for the stage door for autographs.
Some critics criticize the songs as indistinguishable; I disagree. Some had some very contemporary undertones while still having a very modern Disney vibe. I loved the harmonies and the orchestrations. I also found it interesting that young "Jack" dreams of escaping gritty NYC and moving to "Santa Fe," much as "Roger" does many theatre years later in Rent. I probably enjoyed the tap-dance number "King of New York" and the amazing production number "Seize the Day" the most.
The moving scaffolding with staircases inside that make up of most of the set, designed by Tobin Ost, is amazing and the costumes by Jess Goldstein are authentic but not depressing. It was the first time that I had ever seen small monitors attached to the front of the balcony with the conductor on camera so that the singers can keep up with the orchestra. In true Disney fashion, the programs are in the shape of "papes" and newsboy caps are for sale.
It was such a pleasure to see the original Broadway cast of this joyous musical with my dear aunt and my young musician. The show was originally intended to run for a limited engagement starting in previews on March 15, 2012 and officially on March 29, 2012. The engagement was extended through August 19, 2012 after just the first previews. On May 16, 2012, Disney announced that Newsies is now an open-ended engagement, so go see it!