NEWSIESBook By Harvery Fierstein
Lyrics by Mark Feldman
Music by Alan Menken
Plaza Theatre Company
CAST & CREW
Jack – Evan Beggs
Katherine – Jillian Harrison
Pulitzer – Chris Wagner
Crutchie – William Power
Davey – Jarrett Self
Les – Jonah Jaxon Barrus
Medda – Chimberly Carter Byrom
Race – David Midkiff
Albert – Nolan Moralez
Finch – Angel Somarriba
Romeo – Alvaro Aguilar
Specs – Landon Guilliams
Elmer – Stephen Newton
Spot Conlon – Jack Synder
Synder – Jay Cornils
Bunsen / Jacobi – Jay Cornils
Seitz – JaceSon P. Barrus
Hannah / Nun – Emily Warwick
Stage Manager / Mayor / Goon – Jose Marroquin
Wiesel – Jeff Meador
Teddy Roosevelt / Goon – Mark Midkiff
Morris Delancey / Nunzio – Jesse Bowron
Oscar Delancey – Tra Newman
Bowery Beauty / Nun / Woman – Megan A. Liles
Bowery Beauty / Nun – Julia Wood
NEWSIES – Trey Estes, Ethan Leake, Marissa Wheat, Josh McLemore, Nate Frederickon, Landon Denman, Eden Barrus, Makenna Clark, Pearce Chadwick
ENSEMBLE – Gavin Clark, Eli Poole, Sam Bond, Aaron Hyatt, Rylee Mullen, Mimi Barrus, Ruth Power, Greta Wilhelm, Matthew Leake, Jacob Renfroe, Sam Tarron, Gabriel Tarron, Alina Jennings
Directors – Tina Barrus & Tabitha Ibarra
Musical Director – Caitlan Leblo
Choreographer – Tabitha Ibarra
Stage Manager – Madison Heaps
Fight Choreographer – Luke Hunt
Set Design – Parker Barrus
Costume Design – Tina Barrus
Lighting Design – Cameron Barrus
Prop Design – Soni Barrus
Sound Design – G. Aaron Siler
Reviewed Performance: 2/2/2019
Reviewed by Travis McCallum, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
America is booming with sensationalism like never. Powerhouse giant Joseph Pulitzer (Chris Wagner) has taken over the city with his incredible newspaper “The World” and on the street’s delivery runners, or newsies, are spreading the word.
That is until Pulitzer raises prices and the unofficial leader of the newsies in Manhattan Jack Kelly (Evan Beggs) takes a stand. Under the advisement of Davey Jacobs (Jarrett Self), Jack rallies the boys to go on strike until the price drops back.
Newsies is a story about a boy who has the courage to stand up for what is right against impossible odds and wins.
This Disney classic is filled with gusto, mischief and a dash of romance.
The stage opens on the rooftop of Jack’s home. He is aroused by the lovable Crutchie (William Power) who wants to get an early start on the day. The duo blows us away with energy and a very believable accent of the New York times.
NOTE: Some of the roles are double cast in this production of Newsies, at the performance I attended it was the Saturday matinee cast that I reviewed. Jack’s character is the most complex one of all, portrayed by Evan Beggs. On the outside, his public persona boasts optimism and confidence. Yet on that rooftop with Crutchie, Jack (Beggs) opens his vulnerability with a far-fetched dream of running away to Santa Fe. Indeed, the melody of “Santa Fe” is one of the most iconic songs you will hear throughout the show, with each iteration more emotional than the next.
As the leading man, Beggs gives us a personal account of his highs and lows. I can feel his soul riveting with raw despair at the denial of self-expression. It’s thanks to Medda’s prodding we get a glimpse of the protagonist’s core character—that of an artist when he takes the paintbrush to the canvas. The physical strain on Beggs’s facial expressions shows the audience such a difficult decision he must make in choosing self-interest or public well-being.
The music is a recording (understandably given the space of the theatre and backstage), though I am unsure if it was an original plaza theatre or royalty bought piece. But if you have ever seen the 1992 Disney movie, no doubt the tunes will sound familiar.
And let me say that nothing beats live theatre. You could just feel the auras of the actors emanating from the center arena stage. When I said this was a fun experience, it was also fun for all the characters. They lived in the moment-- their heavy breathing and profuse sweat is a testament to the incredible dedication I saw.
Right after Jack helps Crutchie down the rooftop, the newsies flock the stage, some 15 young persons dressed in plaid working-class outfits. With a cap, suspenders, knickers, a pair of (tap) shoes, and the occasional tie, Costume Designer Tina Barrus has brilliantly dressed the talented ragtag crew.
In a seamless transition of the set, the newsies dazzle with acrobatics us old people only wish we could pull off. Backflips, somersaults, pirouettes and jetés cascade in highly stylized sequences. I applaud the choreographer Tabitha Ibarra efforts of the sometimes 20+ bodies synchronization for some of the bigger musical numbers like “Seize the Day”.
The newsies embody the lavish freedom of youth and flexibility. To contrast that, we observe the cold, calculating demeanor of the 1 percent. Characters like Pulitzer’s office, Snyder’s (Jay Cornils) Refuge, and the newspaper distributer Wiesel’s (Jeff Meador) motley crew reek of greed and corruption. Strutting in their business suits, drenched in smug oppression, I can’t but help but despise those corporate bigwigs!
I got to give a special shout out to Mr. Kevin Poole as the unsung hero-- as Bunsen (Pulitzer’s personal assistance) and as Jacobi (the deli owner). The man is a great character actor with wonderful physique. Whoever decided on the curly mustache and Italian accent hit gold.
Characters are aplenty and there are so many spotlight moments throughout the show. The introduction of the Delancey brothers lends to brain and motivation to roll a snowball. Davey (played by Jarrett Self), the elder, evolves from a modest intelligent boy. He grows quickly to accept leadership in the absence of Jack and smacks some common sense in the spooked protagonist.
Les (Jonah Jaxon Barrus), the younger, hit us with a pity act, garnering profits across the board. His innocent youth capitalized by Jack, manipulated wealthy folk. Later Les would assist in the strike movement with motivational pep talks. I am always amazed how talented young pre-teens can embrace such genuine performances. Way to go little guy!
Medda (Chimberly Carter Byrom) softens our hearts with her impressive vocals in the theatre. And who could forget about the dainty Katherine “Plumber” (Jillian Harrison)?
The wannabe news reporter enamors us with a quirky personality. Her cold shoulder to Jack’s advances makes us guys envy how persistent he is in winning her over in the end. When I listened to her song “Watch What Happens”, I loved the fluctuations in Katherine’s emotions where she’d get lost daydreaming and then snap back to work.
Love knows no limits.
If Jack (Beggs) is the protagonist, then Katherine rivals that role as the most impactful driver of the story (For Plaza’s production, she is portrayed by Jillian Harrison). After all, without her influence in the news, there was no way the newsies story would have been told. She delivers time and time again with outstanding grit despite her family’s disapproval.
Harrison carries a weight of urgency and pushes the buttons of anyone she comes across. Any good journalist knows that persistence and inquisition pay off, which proves why she not only carries the social change to its rightful end… but also why she and Jack make such a dynamite couple.
While typing up her story, Katherine (Harrison) is using a typewriter. Among the prop, we see other historical artifacts on stage like a printing press and photos from the past. I love how accurate and detailed Prop Master Soni Barrus blended the newsies story with Plaza Theatre’s own unique take.
Part of those props were the satchels the newsies carried which tended flail everywhere. I was impressed with the control the actors had keeping their composure, especially when they danced on top of newspapers and did not trip a single time! (Also, thanks for throwing the papers at the audience and making this an interactive experience.)
I loved the entire newsies ensemble, but I had a hard time telling the names of everyone, apart from Romeo (who makes a humorous pass on Katherine), it’s hard to critique each one. When the ensemble broke into their respective burrows, I caught one stand-out personalities.
Spot Conlon (Jack Synder) stood out as the ringleader of the greater NYC newsies. He reminded me of a mafia godfather of the bunch.
What I will say about the cast is you will find diversity in every size, color, age and gender. And that is a blessing.
No production is complete without its supporting crew. Lighting Designer Cameron Barrus kept us out of the dark with beautiful hues of blue, purples, whites and reds. Each color hit a tone for the scene. Night shades of blue moonlight shone on the rooftops or pierced in the prison windows of Crutchie’s cell.
One of my biggest fears with the amount of cast members on stage at any given time is that we wouldn’t know where to look. But Cameron directed us by dimming on the less important areas. Expert use of effective lighting!
That same lighting showcased the aftermath of one of the most violent scenes in the show: the strike brawl at Newsie’s Square. A collaborative effort between the cast battered their brave souls with realistic wounds that evolved throughout the show. One individual lost an eye!
Co-Director’s Tina Barrus & Tabitha Ibarra deliver a truly FUN and magical experience with Newsies. Jack captures our hearts with his artistic talent and resolve to bring justice to the little guys. And the newsies band together to take down some of the biggest crooks in NYC.
“We're doing something no one's even tried, and yes, we're terrified but watch what happens."
PLAZA THEATRE COMPANY
February 1 – March 2
Thur-Sat 7:30pm, Sat 3pm
5604, 305 S Anglin St, Cleburne, TX 76031
To purchase tickets, visit the box office or online at http://plaza-theatre.com/show/2019/newsies-the-musical