NEWSIESBook by Harvey Fierstein; Music by Alen Menkin; Lyrics by Jack Feldman
Originally produced on Broadway by Disney Theatrical Productions
Music Theatre of Denton
Producers ... Scott Deck & Stephanie Holloway
Director ... Eric B. Ryan
Music Director ... John Norine, Jr.
Choreographer ... Kristi Lee Smith
Stage Manager ... Tiffany Bergh
Assistant Stage Manager ... Joseph Kaminski
Costume Design ... Jennifer Baldwin & Elsie Barrow
Fight Coordinator ... Jace Bridwell
Lighting Design ... Les C. Deal
Sound Design ... Pat Schaider
Projection Design ... Eric B. Ryan
Props Design ... Sara Key
Scenic Conceptual Design ... Eric B. Ryan
Master Carpenter ... Paul Key
Wig/Hair Design ... Lona Wolf
Jack Kelly ... Cayden Candioto
Katherine Plumber ... Delaney Gebhart
Joseph Pulitzer ... Scott Deck
Medda Larkin / Nun ... LaDonna Gaut
Crutchie ... Tyler Halbrooks
Davey ... Jeffery Scott Gage
Les ... Hunter Julian
Albert ... Bryson Beavers
Buttons ... Nolan James
Elmer ... Jonathan Daniel Martin
Finch ... Bryce Welborn
Henry ... Rodney McMillian
Ike ... Andy Komonchak, III
Jo Jo ... Hayden Beaty
Mike ... Persia Joy
Mush ... Ryan Janke
Race ... Anthony J. Ortega
Romeo ... Bryson Pope
Specs ... Reid Sullivan
Splasher ... Kyler Baldwin
Spot Conlon ... Chase W. Shaw
Tommy Boy ... Andrew Brown
Darcy ... Connor Miller
Bill Hearst ... Jason Diaz Ortega
Morris Delancey ... Blane Owen
Oscar Delancey ... Nick Lafleur
Wiesel / Nunzio / Jacobi / Policeman ... Jaime Rodriguez-Schmidt
Seitz ... Charles Laughlin
Bunsen ... Justin Rana
Hannah ... Kristi Lee Smith
Nun ... Marty Franks
Nun ... Kathleen Laughlin
Governor Teddy Roosevelt ... Bill Kirkley
Stage Manager / Mayor / Guard ... Michael Thompson
Goon ... Brooks Melson
Goon ... Justin Rana
Scab ... Luke Knittle
Scab ... Trey Balentine
Scab ... Connor Miller
Bowery Beauty ... Hanna Brown
Bowery Beauty ... Lilee Ann Gifford
Snyder ... Christopher Ryal
Ensemble Newsies ... Hanna Brown, Marty Franks, Danielle Taylor Graves,
Charles Laughlin, Kathleen Laughlin, Dakota Linnabary, Emiliano Pliego,
Michaela Trebing, Grace Loe, Jaime Rodriguez-Schmidt, Christopher Ryal, Mary Salvati, Lilee Ann Gifford
Pit Singers ... Marty Franks, Dillon Hanson, Dakota Linnabary, Emiliano Pliego, Charles Laughlin,
Justin Rana, Christopher Ryal, Jamie Rodriguez-Schmidt
Photography Credit: Michael Modecki
Reviewed Performance: 10/18/2019
Reviewed by Jazmin Wilson, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Newsies demands such a great amount of talent from its performers, because not only are some of the vocal parts so insanely high that I can sing along with them comfortably as a young soprano, but the dancing and the acting portions of the show are equally as demanding, providing any company that produces the show with the challenging task of finding the talent necessary to execute this show well. There isn’t a doubt that MTD has it, as I was nothing but smiles throughout the entirety of the show.
I’ll begin with discussing the very aspect of the show that makes Newsies what it is: the ensemble. The ensemble was, although often out of sync during dances, full of very talented solo dancers. While numbers went on, the ensemble struggled to stay in touch with each other, which was especially noticeable during “King of New York” when tap shoe-clad feet were unable to match their clicks and clacks well enough to provide for a single unified sound. Another flaw worth mentioning was the sheer amount of full on wipe outs that occurred during the choreography. Often, these individuals would be close to the front of the dance formation therefore incredibly noticeable when they fell after a botched jump or something of the like. As far as noticeability goes, as well, I understand that many productions of Newsies cast girls to dance along the predominantly male ensemble. However, girls being in the show is usually kept somewhat lowkey. This was not the case in this production, which was not at all a problem but became sort of awkward when several female ensemble members were grouped together on the stage. They would be together often during dances and scenes, often making them look out of place when you look closely. All that being said, though, what was lacking in the choreography was wholly made up by the sheer vocal talent this ensemble possessed. Every single time the ensemble collectively sang something I was completely taken aback with how absolutely wonderful they sounded together. So much so that I am still thinking about it days later just wondering how many hours of vocal rehearsal must have taken place for the cast in order to pull off that sort of blend. In addition to this perk, they were all extremely animated, consistently existing within their own story. I did not doubt for even a moment that each of them had their own individual stories to tell as it was written all over their faces in the idle moments of the show. If I were to see the show again, the driving force behind me purchasing the ticket would be to watch “The World Will Know" just one more time. Seriously incredible passion.
Aside from the ensemble, the smaller roles shined like no other. The entire motivation for even giving the minor roles a paragraph of their own was to acknowledge the sheer mastery LaDonna Gaut possessed in the role of Medda Larkin. Her voice absolutely shined to me, and every note she sang seemed effortless. On the topic of voices, I would also like to note that Scott Deck’s voice as Pulitzer was just incredibly nice to hear. There wasn’t anything that particularly stuck out to me about it other than the fact that his tone also seemed simple and relaxed. I was fond of Jaime Rodriguez-Schmidt as Wiesel throughout the production, perfectly snooty and easy to be frustrated with. The Delanceys, Nick Lafleur and Blake Owen, were also quite well executed despite not really doing much of anything. They were the easily hate-able punks that we all know, and I was incredibly fond overall of the smaller roles.
Now that the ensemble and minor roles have been discussed, there is no other way to introduce the main cast of this show but by starting with the character that leads the newsies into victory: Jack Kelly. Starring as our leading man in this production is none other than the very talented Cayden Candioto, who brings the familiar charm to a character we all know and love. Candioto’s Jack Kelly is flirtatious, charismatic, and daring, exactly as he should be, and is accompanied by an absolutely stunning high and low range, making it incredibly clear that Cayden was a fantastic fit for this role. However, with his breathtaking belts and tender low notes came a sort of unsteadiness in the middle range, almost indicating uncertainty. Verses of songs without nice belts were slightly shaky and sometimes fell flat with a sort of unsureness, but these moments were easily remedied when his vibrato would sweep the audience off their feet into the higher part of songs. This was particularly true in Santa Fe, the middle-ranged sections of the song feeling slightly emotionally static while the highs and lows of the music were far more tender and sincere. Where Cayden Candioto shined the most, though, was in his acting, providing triumphant moments, heartbreaking moments, guilty moments, and yearning moments without hesitation or delay. I was entirely sure where his character was emotionally at all points in time not only because I’ve seen the show more times than I’d like to admit, but because Candioto did such a perfect job of being vulnerable in his role.
Les and Davey were phenomenally cast as well, Jeffrey Scott Gage and Hunter Julian proving it no trouble at all to bring these pair of siblings to life. Jeffrey as Davey was prim and proper where he needed to be and fiery when the plot desired it, providing a tremendously solid emotional arc. Not only was his character’s development believable, Jeffrey Scott Gage also holds a unique amount of talent when it comes to vocal ability, his tone as clear and true as a bell. Hunter Julian, in addition, had a good set of pipes as well, and was easily able to sing along with the rest of the older cast and hold his own with ease. Julian handled the role of Les with true professionalism for his age, and had the audience constantly laughing at the huge expressions on his sweet little face. Overall, these two proved to be a vastly impressive duo and a clear asset to the cast.
I found Delaney Gebhart as Katherine Plumber to be an entirely different kind of charming. Her characterization was so genuine and honest, almost reminding me a bit of Veronica Sawyer in Heathers without all the moral ambiguity. She giggled, squealed, smiled, and expressed joy so freely and truly in this role that it was nearly impossible not to grin whenever Gebhart took the stage. Her voice was possibly my favorite of all the leading cast as well, easily belting with a smile. “Watch What Happens” was truly one of my favorite numbers in the entire show merely because of how effortlessly animated Gebhart really was in her role, showing us her ups and downs with no difficulty at all and providing all audience members, myself included, with the most enjoyable characterization of Katherine Plumber I have ever seen.
I couldn’t bring myself to wrap up this review before drawing attention to my absolute favorite character in the entirety of the newsies gang: dear old Crutchie. Every time I watch any adaptation of Newsies, my eye immediately is drawn to Crutchie, always looking to see how he’s played. I find him not only to be the most interesting, but the sweetest and most hilarious, so it’s no wonder that Tyler Halbrooks’s portrayal of Crutchie left me more than satisfied. Not only was his voice fitting, the role was absolutely made for Halbrooks. He played the charming sweetheart with a limp earnestly, eagerly, and naively, always making me warm when he took the stage. Letter from the Refuge has always been a number that makes me a wee bit emotional, and Halbrooks proved this emotionally tender point in the plot to be no challenge to portray, making me want to climb on the stage and bail him out myself. I found that his Crutchie could have been a tiny bit spazzier or outcast-like, but I literally did not mind in the slightest the charming attitude Halbrooks possessed. He truly did my favorite newsie justice.
As far as the set goes, MTD took on the usual structure of a Newsies set: plain two-story structures with wheels. There is a reason this sort of set is so useful for Newsies, and this production didn’t prove any different, fully utilizing the versatility of this type of stage layout. To top off the structure of the set, a detail I enjoyed greatly was that to the sides of the stage were depictions of the New York skyline entirely done in newspapers! (This didn’t make or break the show, but it was a detail that I appreciated enough to mention.)
A slight challenge that the set posed was the chairs. The chairs looked sturdy enough, but there were two incredibly noticeable incidents of the chairs giving the actors great trouble. Cayden Candioto attempted to step down from the table, to the chair, to the floor at one point and wobbled to the point of almost falling. It was easily recoverable and earned a laugh from the audience, just seeming as if Jack was experiencing a faltering sense of confidence upon seeing Katherine around. Halbrooks also had a bit of a mishap, reaching for a chair to notice that the leg had broken off right in front of him. It was well covered as well, but it was definitely a distraction despite not being his fault.
Another minor issue seemed to be that at some points in the show, cast members moving the set pieces seemed almost unsure of what their next move was meant to be. My guest and I both were able to note instances where two actors moving a structure would both push and look at each other with panic when the set piece would not budge, only to be met with fellow actors pointing at where it was initially meant to go. While entirely miniscule and brief, it was a noticeable falter and pretty much was responsible for a loss of immersion until another scene pulled attention away from the problem.
The only other issue I could possibly note regarding the overall quality of the show would have to be the fact that the audience was unable to hear solo singers during group numbers as they were entirely drowned out by the pit. The pit and cast also struggled at times to be entirely in sync, almost as if the actors were unable to hear the pit clearly, which was incredibly obvious during “King of New York” during tap sections.
By the time the cast all met again for bows, I had already decided that the production was immensely enjoyable and that I’d be happy to return to this theater at any time. I even went so far as to buy a shirt because of how much I truly enjoyed it. Overall, this production of Newsies served as not only a fine display of talent but also a generally fun time, suitable for anybody willing to hear the story of some kids who changed the world.
For TICKETS visit https://www.musictheatreofdenton.com/newsies or call the box office at 940-382-1915.