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Disney’s NEWSIES - The Musical

Disney’s NEWSIES - The Musical

Music by Alan Menken, Lyrics by Jack Feldman
Book by Harvey Fierstein
Original Screenplay by Bob Tzudiker and Noni White

Lyric Stage

Directed By Noah Putterman
Choreographed By Katharine Quinn
Music Direction By Bruce Greer
Lighting Design By Julie A. Simmons
Costume Design By Eric Peterman
Production Stage Manager-Brittan Benedict
Associate Music Director-Bryson Baumgartel
Assistant Stage Manager-Branden Loera
Dance Captain/Assistant to the Choreographer-David Midkiff
The Majestic House Audio Technician-Christian Blake White
Costume Coordinator- Erica Peterman

Jack Kelly- Anthony Fortino
Katherine Plumber- Jocelyn Hansen
Crutchie- Parker Gray
Davey- Zak Reynolds
Les- Patrick Shukis
Race- Ben Sherman
Albert- Tristin Thomas
Specs-David Postlewate
Henry- David Midkiff
Finch- Jill Nicholas
Romeo- Jacob Hemsath
Elmer- Alex Heika
Mush- Dakota Davis
Buttons- Samuel Ea
Splasher- Stephen Newton
Tommy Boy- Gabi Roller
Jo Jo- Ania Lyons
Mike- Joshua Wilson
Ike/Bill- Ryan Nuss
Newsie- McLaine Meachem
Darcy/Ensemble- Andrew Bullard
Spot Conlon- Griffin Shoemaker
Wiesel/Nunzio/Jacobi/Roosevelt-Christopher Curtis
Oscar Delancy- A.L. Cook
Morris Delancy- Mark Quach
Joseph Pulitzer- Sonny Franks
Bunsen/Ensemble- Doug Fowler
Setiz/Mayor/Ensemble- Hunter Lewis
Snyder- Stan Graner
Medda Larkin/Nun-Feleceia Benton
Hannah/Nun/Bowery Beauty- Kyle Hughes
Nun/Bowery Beauty/Ensemble- Amber Flores
Young Newsies- Cooper Carter, Patrick Bilbow, Ivy Bilbow, Jack Doke

KEYS 1: Bruce Greer
KEYS 2: Bryson Baumgartel
VIOLINS: Junsso Park, Elijah Evans, Miguel Cantu
CELLOS: Lejing Zhu, Bria Seo, Carlos Vargas
REED 1: Christian Gonzalez
REED 2: Kristen Thompson
TRUMPET: Miles Johnson
Trombone: Paul Birk
DRUMS: Gene Glover
BASS: George Anderson
GUITAR: Maristella Festle

Reviewed Performance: 9/22/2018

Reviewed by John Garcia, Senior Chief Theater Critic/Editor/Founder, THE COLUMN. Member, AMERICAN THEATRE CRITICS ASSOCIATION for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

Not even the pouring rain could stop Saturday evening’s audience from packing the historic golden encrusted Majestic theater to see Lyric Stage’s 2018-19 season opener, Disney’s Newsies the musical. Based on the 1992 movie it failed to gain steam at the box office, but thanks to the longevity of its fans over the years, it created its own cult like success. Newsies finally reached Broadway in 2012, dancing and tapping up 1,005 performances and along the way received seven Tony nominations, including Best Choreography and Best Original Score.

Once the rights were released for Equity and Non-Equity houses to produce this Disney hit, Lyric Stage became the first official theater in the Dallas-Fort Worth area to officially debut the musical locally. Saturday night they have answered one question loud and clear. They displayed in marvelous and artistic life on how to produce and create this mega hit for the stage just the right way. It takes all the theater gods to line up their magic to make this show work, and it is clearly evident for Lyric’s Newsies, they did just that!

The sixteen-piece orchestra conducted by Maestro Bruce Greer was opulent and resplendent. They filled the Majestic with luxurious music, especially with those soothing violins and cellos. This was a Broadway caliber orchestra, that’s how sublime they sounded.

I have only seen the national tour of Newsies, but the one major element everyone remembers from this musical is the choreography. I mean it did get a Tony nod for that! So, you have to wonder how this production will create that sparking and athletic choreography. It was a great relief that they did not disappoint. Choreographer Katherine Quinn did a phenominal job with her eye-popping choreography for her newsboys and girls. The choreography was marvelous throughout the evening, number after number. It was energetic, staged to fill the entire stage, and visually exciting. Personal favorite numbers that Ms. Quinn created included “Carrying The Banner”, “Seize The Day”, “King of New York”, “ and “One and for All”.

Noah Putterman’s direction is stunning throughout the evening. His scene changes ebb seamlessly, and the pace was solid, and never once sagged. This musical and its characters could have slipped into over the top kiddie camp theater or cheesy “please the parents in the audience”, thus destroying what realism there is in Harvey Fierstein’s book. Putterman wisely avoids this and made sure his younger actors do the same. His staging and blocking was clean, precise, and with purpose. One of my favorite numbers that Putterman staged was “Something to Believe In”. Katherine (Jocelyn Hansen) and Jack (Anthony Fortino) sing this touching ballad in which Putterman has staged them organically reacting to each other, never taking their eyes off each other. It’s the first time Jack and Katherine finally let down their guard. Remember the time period, so its not attacking each other per se. But it was a really beautifully romantic, slowly staged scene that ending with a great kiss. That was just one example of Putterman’s fine work throughout the musical. His detail to the big, splashy production numbers were as splendid as his intimate scene work.

The stars of evening without a doubt are the newsboys and girls. But first I must give a HUGE round of applause and PROFOUND respect to Lyric Stage and Director Noah Putterman for casting non-traditionally as well as females within the newsies. Theaters around the country have been boycotted and attacked by the media and AEA over their lack of diversity in casting. Such as the Muny this past summer with Jerome Robbins Broadway and last season at North Shore Theater with Evita. Thus, it was so visually beautiful and quite moving to see African Americans and Hispanics as well as females within the newsies! It did not affect the story whatsoever, but instead made it much more universal.

The teen cast of young ladies and men are truly triple threats! Jaw dropping dancers, flawless singers, and sharp acting skills. They worked as a unit, supporting each other, their chemistry and energy popped and bounced into the audience. This talented group of male and female newsies execution of Katharine Quinn’s energetic choreography was highly impressive. There were leaps, flips, jumps, leg extensions, etc. It was even more impressive that they were all in unison, a feat that is extremely difficult to achieve.

Anthony Fortino as Jack Kelly and Jocelyn Hansen as Katherine Plumber gave stellar performances in the principal roles. Fortino portrays Jack, the leader of newsie strike, who is an artist at heart, and falls in love with Katherine. Fortino is a familiar face here in the DFW area having done roles on various stages. As Jack, he gives an outstanding performance that shimmers and gleams all evening long. A radiant stage presence matched with a resplendent tenor voice that syncs flawlessly with his characterization of Jack that is first rate. His booming belt for closing Act I with the “Sante Fe” reprise was perfection. Ms. Hansen is Katherine, a reporter who writes puff pieces, but wants to be a real reporter, so she wants to write about the newsie strike, and in the process falls in love with Jack (Fortino). She possesses a sumptuous soprano voice that matches up wonderfully with Fortino’ s with their duet “Something to Believe In”. Her solo “Watch What Happens” is a marvelous number that showcases her voice as well. Her chemistry with Fortino is playful, honest, and charming. They don’t come off hammy or lackluster. Fortino and Hansen are a knock out in this production.

The scene stealer and who won the audience’s hearts Saturday night was Parker Gray as Crutchie, with his voice sounding like someone was squeezing him by the waist, he nailed his one liners every single time. His comedic time, pace, and delivery was so sharp even his throw away lines generated laughter. Gray’s performance was my personal favorite of the evening. Hysterical from beginning to end.

Special plaudits to Ben Sherman (Race) and David Midkiff (Henry/Dance Captain) for their fantastic and dazzling tap solos during the Act II opener “King of New York”.

Also delivering noteworthy performances within the large company: Feleceia Benton as Medda Larkin, Christopher Curtis in his multiple roles as Nunzio/Wiesel/Jacobi/Roosevelt, Sonny Franks as Joseph Pulitzer, and Patrick Shukis as Les.

So, you ask, “Was there anything wrong Lyric Stage’s production of Newsies?” Yes. Yes there was. It had one major problem. That sadly it did not run for another four to six weeks, because I’m positive it would have sold out every single one of those performances. That’s how exquisite this production is. Lyric stage’s version of Newsies displayed exactly how musical theater should be. They transported the audience on a magical journey and showed the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex what distinguished talent we have.

Disney’s NEWSIES The Musical
Lyric Stage
Played through September 23, 2018