Newsies | The Fabulous Fox Theatre

It would be a shame to miss this!

newsies

As they triumphantly sing in Newsies, “now is the time to seize the day”…and go online to buy tickets to this show! Seriously, if you’ve been on the fence, the time is NOW. I realize we’re not even a month into the New Year, but mark my word: Newsies will be among the top 10 best productions in St. Louis this year. I was certain of this by intermission.

Like so many other musicals, Newsies is based on a book (David Nasaw’s Children of the City), which was adapted into the 1992 Disney film, Newsies, starring a young Christian Bale as lead character Jack Kelly. I first saw the movie in a middle school history class during a unit on the child labor movement at the turn of the century. But don’t be mistaken, it’s no snooze fest like some of the movies we’re forced to watch in school. It’s energetic, entertaining, and empowering. Needless to say, I never forgot it. Although it’s one of Disney’s lesser-known projects, it has something of a cult following. Fans begged for a stage adaptation, and in 2012, they got their wish. Here’s the crazy (awesome) part: it was initially only scheduled for a 100-show run, but its devoted “Fansies” helped change that. 100 turned into 1,005 performances!

This show ushers the audience back to the turn of the century when groups of poor boys were selling newspapers on the streets of New York to make a bit of pocket change. Orphan Jack Kelly (Joey Barreiro) doesn’t plan to work the thankless job a second longer than he has to. He has every intention to kiss New York City goodbye and start a new life in Santa Fe first chance he gets, but until then, he charismatically leads the “newsies” in his region, charming customers or announcing false headlines if that’s what it takes to make a sale. Davey (Stephen Michael Langton) and his adorable little brother are the pack’s newest members, forced to quit school and find work after their dad got laid off. Davey’s book smarts initially clash with Jack’s street smarts, but they turn out to be invaluable to one another as the show progresses.

Business as usual is interrupted when Joseph Pulitzer (Steve Blanchard) decides to charge 10 cents more per hundred papers. The boys are outraged and decide to go on strike, with Jack as the demonstration leader. Meanwhile, Jack attempts to swoon young writer Katherine (Morgan Keene), who reviews shows at a local theater run by Medda Larkin (Aisha de Haas). Larkin adores Jack and lets him use her theatre as a refuge of sorts. Katherine tries hard to maintain professionalism around Jack, but doing so certainly takes effort. Despite her serious demeanor, even she can’t deny that she’s a bit intrigued by this boy. This is a time in history when women weren’t assigned hard-hitting news stories, so she sees the strike as the perfect opportunity for her to show the men within her industry what she’s truly capable of.

Inspired by the real-life Newsboy Strike of 1899, Jack rallies up audience members just as much as he does his peers onstage. Broadway is full of characters to root for, but in the case of Newsies, you’re truly rooting for dozens of teens and children collectively. Great theatre touches the heart no matter what the tone of the content onstage. Despite being a teeny bit all over the place at times, I was so invested in this narrative, I had to swallow the lump of emotion that formed in my throat as intermission approached. I could have cried just as easily at their small failures as I did their victories.

The story itself is compelling, but it’s the show’s astounding choreography, music, technical touches, and scenic design that really make it memorable. You know you’re in for a treat when you learn composer Alan Menken (Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin) is associated with a project. Between his stunning score and Jack Feldman’s lyrics, Disney fans will have hearts in their eyes long after this show is over. Christopher Gattelli’s choreography won a Tony in 2012, which couldn’t have been more well-deserved. Just to give you an idea, there are 31 backflips and actual newspapers cleverly incorporated. The scenic design combined with terrific technical touches gives the show an added element of surprise. It would be a shame to miss this! | Megan Washausen

P.S. Splurge on a Newsies cookie pop while you’re there. You will definitely be glad you did!

Newsies runs at The Fabulous Fox through January 31. For ticket information, visit http://www.fabulousfox.com/.

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