Review: ‘Newsies’ An ‘Extra! Extra!’ Fun Show

Newsies Capitol Theatre
Disney's "Newsies," plays through Sunday at the Capitol Theatre in a sold-out run, and returns in August for five more shows. Photo: Deen Van Meer

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, June 9, 2016 (Gephardt Daily) — If local paperboys and girls were a fraction as nimble and precision-oriented as those in “Newsies,” no paper would ever land in a Utah rain gutter again.

Disney’s “Newsies” plays through Sunday at the Capitol Theatre in a run that sold out so fast, the company has been booked for another five performances in August. (Click here for ticket updates as they become available.)

The aforementioned precision in the Broadway touring production of “Newsies” displays itself in the group dances, all performed in flawless unison. The nimbleness shows itself in the acrobatic stunts within the dance numbers.

The plot centers around the 1899 newspaper-sellers strike, which would lead to the formation of a union and to protection of child laborers in many lines of work.

In the musical, most of boys selling “papes” (as they are called in the show) are children or young men who live in extreme poverty and have lost one or both parents.

Yet when the New York Sun publisher Joseph Pulitzer decides to increase company profits by raising costs to the young street vendors, the newsies — who already live in the streets and on the edge of starvation — decide to strike rather than take the economic abuse.

Newsies Capitol Theatre
Disney’s “Newsies,” starring Morgan Keene (left) and Joey Barrerio, plays through Sunday at the Capitol Theatre in a sold-out run, and returns in August for five more shows. Photo: Deen Van Meer

Their leader is the charismatic Jack Kelly, whose longtime dream is to leave the city and head to the laid-back west, and not to fight the establishment and build a future on the mean streets of New York City.

Kelly is played by Joey Barrerio, who is an excellent dancer with a strong stage presence and a solid tenor voice.

Playing the aspiring reporter Kate, the object of Jack’s affection, is mezzo-soprano Morgan Keene, whose performance grows stronger through the show.

But stealing the show are dance numbers by the ensemble of newsies. Most pieces seem to combine ballet arms and turns with highly athletic moves, highlighted with a wide variety of gymnastic flips. Most numbers are performed in this style, although there is an impressive tap number at the top of the second act.

The song and dance are pretty much flawless in this show, which more than makes up for a fairly thin plot and some underdeveloped characters in this musical. The Tony Award-winning score features music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Jack Feldman. The book is by Harvey Fierstein.

Newsies Capitol Theatre
Disney’s “Newsies,” plays through Sunday at the Capitol Theatre in a sold-out run, and returns in August for five more shows. Photo: Deen Van Meer

Another impressive feature of the production is its set, with movable pieces of three-level scaffolding, built in an old fashion, lattice-look style. Sheer screens lower to cover the open fronts of each section of scaffolding, providing a surface for projections.

Projected with black and white images of architecture, the scaffolding looks like a shabby apartment building.

Projected with a sepia tone image of the a piece of paper, the set becomes a large surface to show the animated image of an emerging news article, with words appearing as Kate, seated downstage, types.

“Newsies” is well worth seeing, whether you have or can wrangle tickets now or you are poised for the opportunity to buy tickets for the Aug. 25 through 28 shows.

And you’ll leave the show with more than fond memories of the amazing set, dancing, and singing with live accompaniment.

The other take-away gift is the inspiring story — drawn from real-life events — of young people who had almost nothing, yet risked everything, and banded together to build a better world for themselves and for every generation of workers to follow.

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