April 19, 2012
Cheers ring out for the next generation of beaming Broadway gypsies in "Newsies." The all male chorus kicks up some 1890s dust with 21st century snap. Metal and pavement dominate the sooty streets of a rough tough town, but there's nothing dreary about this cheeky flock of boys who grab corners and hock papers until that miser Pulitzer raises the price of papers from 50 cents to 60 cents for a hundred.
Living mostly on the streets of a thankless NYC, the rag tag bunch of boys band together to form the Children's Crusade demanding fair pay for all manor of menial services. Led by a tussle- haired, disarmingly appealing Jack Kelly (Jeremy Jordan—who caught lots of eyes in “Bonnie & Clyde”) this natural leader teams up with Davey (Ben Frankhauser) the brainy guy and Les (Lewis Grosso) Davey’s young, scene-stealing, wheeler-dealer brother.
Running from orphan homes, and dogging cops, Kelly is a man of many talents. Befriending Medda (Capathia Jenkins), the proprietress of a Bowery Burlesque theater, Kelly releases his inner Picasso by painting her backdrops. That’s where he meets the lovely, young reporter Katherine (Kara Lindsay) who publishes the striking boys’ story. Protective of his younger brother, a truly sympathetic Crutchie (Andrew Keenan-Bolger), Kelly nearly loses heart when Crutchie is severely beat and tossed in jail. Well, ultimately Kelley does lose his heart—to Katherine.
The book by Harvey Fierstein whips up most of the action around the boys and plucky Katherine. Media mogul Joseph Pulitzer (John Dossett) and the Mayor (John E. Brady) along with a few other adults make an appearance, but they merely cast shadows.
What rings out in Newsies is the spicy direction by Jeff Calhoun and choreography by Christopher Gattelli. The all male corps leaps and turns, flips and stretches legs, dodging simple step routines for innovative twists on a theme. Counterpoint dance sequences add texture to the usual step, kick, and turn. Ankles beat together before an air turn, legs jut out at an angle as boys swing off the metal labyrinth of fire-escapes by set designer Tobin Ost. Broadway dance meets ballet, acrobatics and tap in this dance tour de force led by the dance captain “Specs” (Ryan Steele) and his hoofer pals Alex Wong, Aaron Albano, Tommy Bracco, Kyle Coffman, Jess LeProto, Ephraim Sykes and all the Newsies.
Strong orchestration by Danny Troob punches up the music by Allan Menken and lyrics by Jack Feldman, but make no mistake, this is an exciting Broadway “dance” show in the best sense.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis