Bob Goepfert Reviews "Newsies" At Proctors
SCHENCTADY - “Newsies” is starting its first national tour at Proctors Theatre in Schenectady and it appears the Disney company has another cash cow on its hands. This is a musical that should please almost everyone and fill the house at every show before its final performance on Friday night. And, it’s likely to do the same on the road.
This production has a great cast who are phenomenal dancers, good singers and excellent actors. The technical work is amazing and director Jeff Calhoun keeps a book heavy show from slowing down.
It is one of the most exciting dance shows to come to town in a long time. The 16 member ensemble is fantastic as they performs backward and forward summersaults (with and without hands) spins, leaps, lifts and all types of synchronized movement. It’s physical and it’s beautiful to watch.
Remarkably not only are the members of the ensemble marvelous dancers, the production gives each member an opportunity to create a character and here too they excel. Each newsboy becomes a legitimate character in the show.
In a sense, the ensemble is the star of the show for without the dance numbers there would be no reason to see the work. The story is overly ambitious and though noble in intent, it tends to bog down the action rather than enlighten the audience about an important era in the American labor movement.
“Newsies” is based on the true David-Goliath tale of New York City newsboys going on strike in 1899 and gaining concessions against greedy owners and a beating a corrupt political system. And, there is a love story involving two headstrong opposites.
The problem is not with the story but the emotional manipulation with which it is told. There’s no trouble identifying the bad guys. They’re the ones who beat up cripple newsboys, bully 10-year old kids, and enjoy seeing good people suffer, especially if it makes them richer. The good guys are noble, work at poverty wages to support parents and are loyal to each other.
Thankfully, the performers create engaging characters for which it is easy to root. The leader of the strike is Jack Kelly and Dan DeLuca shows the reluctance of this strong man to take on an apparent lost cause. DeLuca plays Kelly with strength and restraint which brings at least an inner conflict to a morality play.
As his love interest Katherine, a Nelly Blye-like reporter, is a woman ahead of her time. Stephanie Styles brings a modern sensibility to the woman who is probably the smartest character in the piece. Styles not only creates a vivid character, she has the best singing voice in the cast.
Supporting roles are also well done. Zachary Sayle finds the vulnerability of Crutchie, the young disabled man with a powerful spirit. As the nerdy and rational Davey, Jacob Kemp makes an effective second-in-command. And, in a role that will be shared by Vincent Crocilla, Anthony Rosenthal is always charming as the spunky 10-year old Les.
As a relief from all this spunk, vulnerability and charm, Steve Blanchard adds a touch of sneering villainy and he makes the modern-day revered figure of Joseph Pulitzer a deliciously despicable figure. Actually there is not a weak performance within this huge cast.
The music is supportive of individual numbers and though there are a few songs like “Something to Believe In” that you want to hear again, there is no reason to want to buy the cast album.
Indeed, the pleasure of “Newsies” is mostly visual. The joy comes from the dance numbers which are thrilling to watch and most ominous emotions are generated by the brilliantly conceived set that features huge powerful towers that always change their location and the mood of the play.
“Newsie” is not a perfect musical but, for sure, it is two and a half hours of enjoyable entertainment.
“Newies” at Proctors Theatre in Schenectady. Through Friday. For ticket and schedule information 346-6204 or proctors.org
Bob Goepfert is the Arts Editor for the Troy Record.
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