If you grew up in the nineties like me, and love musicals, like me, then you probably loved Newsies. Christian Bale leading a cast of adorable teenage boys who can sing and dance? And they wear vests and newsboy hats? Um, yes please. When Disney decided to bring Newsies to Broadway, I was super excited. My sister saw it in New York last summer, and liked it, but was kind of bummed about some of the changes they made to the story. When I saw Newsies was coming to LA, I knew I wanted to see it for myself. I also knew that based on some of the numbers I had seen on various TV performances, it would be worth the price of admission just to see “King of New York”.
So I went into the show excited, but also wary. I had a feeling I wouldn’t love it as much as I loved the movie, but I was going to keep an open mind. The basic story of Newsies follows a group of young kids who sell newspapers in New York. Most of them are homeless and/or orphans and they sell papers to survive. When Pulitzer raises the price of the papers for the newsies in order to make more money himself, the newsies create a union and strike for fair wages and better treatment. In terms of the story, the main change is the reporter. In the movie version, the reporter is played by Bill Pullman, but in the play, they changed the role to a female, and she becomes Jack Kelly’s (in the film, Christian Bale’s role) love interest. This eliminates David’s (the newbie newsie Jack takes under his wing) sister, as she is the love interest in the film. At first, I was annoyed by this change, but in the end, I think it was a wise decision for the flow and story of the play. It actually made the love story more believable as Katherine (the reporter) and Jack spend a good deal of time together. As is typical with a film to stage translation, several songs were added to the score. I didn’t really dislike any of them (though the Pulitzer songs were my least favorite ones), but I also didn’t leave the theater and rush home to download any of the new additions.
The highlight of the performance is by far the group of guys who play the newsies. They put on some of the best dance numbers I have ever seen onstage (and I’ve seen a lot). The dancing and tumbling was so impressive, it almost overshadowed the gorgeous harmonies of the boys, but not quite (at least if you are listening for them as I do). I could have watched them dance all night long and I would have been completely satisfied. As I expected, “King of New York” was my favorite number, probably because there was tap dancing and I am a sucker for good tapping.
Because I have a background in professional theater, I tend to be a harsh critic. While I loved many aspects of Dan DeLuca’s performance as Jack Kelly, his voice was a bit pitchy for my tastes. And while I can’t say for sure there were sound problems, the vocals in the first act seemed a bit rough, like the actors couldn’t hear the band well enough to stay on key/on time. Overall, I enjoyed the second act much more than the first. Stephanie Styles was a stand out for me as Katherine, and I really started to enjoy Dan’s performance when he and Stephanie sang their duet in Act Two.
Overall, I enjoyed my time seeing Newsies. There were some down moments of the show, but the dance numbers really made the show for me. That, combined with awesome sets and costumes (such a given for Disney I barely notice them anymore) created a great night at the theater. If you are into cute boys in tight pants who can sing and dance their booties off, then Newsies is an experience you should not miss.