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Review – Newsies

Where do I begin? I just saw Disney’s The Newsies at the Benedum Center (brought to Pittsburgh through the Cultural Trust with PNC Broadway Across America). It was sublime. It was my childhood come to life in full, vibrant, insanely-cool color. I grew up watching the VHS of Newsies, I spent a ton of my childhood acting out the show with my brother. (He was Jack, I was Crutchie.) There were times during the show I actually got choked up, thinking about how much the movie has meant to me over the years. I was a bit nervous to see it live, wondering if it would live up to my expectations or if it would just be too different. Well, it was different. But it was also the same fun. Let me get more detailed:

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1. The world was incredible. From the costumes (Jess Goldstein) to the scene designs (Tobin Ost) to the fight choreography (J. Allen Suddeth) to the hair and wigs (Charles G. Lapointe), it all made the show come alive. It was like another character, and the projections all over the stage were impeccable and so creative. It was almost as much fun watching those projections as the dancing. Speaking of which:

2. The dancing! Whoa! Newsboy caps off to Mark Hummel (dance music arrangements), Lou Castro (associate choreographer) and Christopher Gattelli (choreographer) on their lean and mean arrangements. The entire cast moved in perfect sync and with total confidence – leaping, striding, sliding, and flipping across the stage with a fiery machismo that brought the sold-out crowd to their feet.

3. Director Jeff Calhoun. There was a ton going on in this show, from the aforementioned technological innovations to the dancing to the acting to the drama inherent in any good David vs. Goliath story (and such a topical battle, too). But the show never took a misstep: it immediately gave the audience a sense of time and place, it established a steady, quick pace and never let up, and the singing was spot on.

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4. Dan DeLuca as Jack Kelly, Zachary Sayle as Crutchie, Stephanie Styles as Katherine, Angela Grovey as Medda, Steve Blanchard as Joe Pulitzer, Benjamin Cook as Race, and the rest of the cast. Their performances were by turn funny, heartbreaking, uplifting and cool. Of course their performances are not like the movie, which is a great thing. They made these characters their own, and in doing so, prevented caricature acting or copy cat mimicry. The show was such a delight because it had wonderful freshness to it. Now, I love the movie as much as the next person (Christian Bale, in my opinion, deserved an Oscar for that role…he’s from Wales, people! Wales! I spent all of my childhood and most of my adolescence thinking he hailed from New York because his accent was THAT impeccable. And don’t even get me started on when he sang Santa Fe, or that scene when he’s in the basement), but I really appreciated the care the cast clearly put into their roles. I would’ve loved to see more of the relationship between best friends Jack and Crutchie explored a bit more, but it was fun to see the new element of the Jack/Katherine courtship. It was a nice bit of charm and romance. But really, I did gasp aloud when the Newsies all were on stage for the first time, belting Carrying the Banner. The staging, the lighting, the singing, the presence of the moment…amazing.

5. And finally, perhaps the best thing about Newsies is how uplifting it is. Maybe it’s the impact of the dozen or so young men singing that make up the newsboys. Maybe it’s the songs themselves and their awesome lyrics. Either way, the show really drives home how powerful the human spirit can be, and how people can incite change and can do great things, if they band together and do them as one. It makes you want to go out and change the world, challenge your demons, fight battles you’ve been afraid to face. It makes you just want to stand up and do. As one of my favorite songs from the show says:

Open the gates and seize the day
Don’t be afraid and don’t delay
Nothing can break us
No one can make us give our rights away
Arise and seize the day

Now is a time to seize the day
Now is a time to seize the day
Send out the call and join the fray
Send out the call and join the fray
Wrongs will be righted
If we’re united
Let us seize the day

Friends of the friendless seize the day
Friends of the friendless seize the day
Raise up the torch and light the way
Proud and Defiant
Well slay the giant
Let us seize the day

Neighbor to neighbor
Father to son
One for all and all for one

Open the gates and seize the day
Open the gates and seize the day
Don’t be afraid and don’t delay
Don’t be afraid and don’t delay
Nothing can break us
No one can make us give our rights away

Neighbor to neighbor
Father to son
One for all and all for one

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**Newsies plays now through November 30, 2014. More information and tickets can be purchased here.

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