Tag Archives: Newsies

“Newsies” at CRT Is All Energy But Little Else

 

Newsies 10_edited.jpg

Photo by Gerry Goodstein

By Karen Isaacs

 

 The Connecticut Repertory Theater’s Summer Season is ending with a rousing production of Disney’s Newsies- the MusicalI through July 16.

The energetic cast — they work really hard – are led by director/choreographer Christopher D’Amboise.  The young men who comprise most of the cast dance up a storm almost non-stop. Unfortunately, while energetic, much of the choreography seems either routine or not particularly geared to the situation or plot.

While it is impressive, one could paraphrase a line from Shakespeare because unfortunately it all signifies nothing.

Newsies which opened on Broadway in 2012 closing after 1004 performances is based on the Disney film of the same name that was released in 1992.  Both tell – with some dramatic license –the story of the 1899 strike by newsboys in New York City against Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst (the two most prominent newspaper publishers in the city) over an increase in the price charged by the papers to the boys.  In reality it wasn’t the first such strike but the boys – and they really were young boys – did win some concessions.

For the Broadway production Harvey Fierstein rewrote the book and Alan Menkin and Jack Feldman added songs while also deleting some that had been in the original film.

The premise is still about the strike but as in the movie, these are not young boys but older adolescents – looking at them you would guess they were at least 16 or several years older.  This dilutes one of the elements in the show which is about the treatment of orphaned and poor children and child labor in general.

The strike is led by Jack Kelly (Jim Schubin) who wants to escape to Santa Fe but he rallies the group to protest the price rise from 50 cents for 100 papers to 60 cents.  The boys sell the papers for one or two cents.  Pulitzer wants to raise the price because following the Spanish-American War, circulation and therefore profits have declined.

The show – like an older Annie – has the requisite types among the boys – Crutchy (Tyler Jones) who limps and whom Kelly protects, the kid from Brooklyn, and of course the slightly more affluent new boy Davey (Noah Kieserman) whose father was let go from a factory because he had been injured on the job.  Plus we have Davey’s younger brother, Les (Aticus L. Burello) – cute and sassy.

Also, there has to be a romance – and Fierstein clarified and combined characters.  In a truly ironic turn, the romantic interest (Katherine played by Paige Smith) is an aspiring female reporter who it turns out to be Pultizer’s daughter. Later on the sons of Hearst and another publisher help the boys. The only other significant female role is that of Medda Larkin (Tina Fabrique) who owns and stars at a theater in the Bowery; she is the requisite motherly figure.

In this production, while Schubin is very good, I was much more drawn to the performance of Kieserman as Davey. I also wished that both Fabrique and Richard R. Henry (recently outstanding in Yale’s Assassins) who plays William Randolph Hearst had more to do. Their two big numbers “The Bottom Line” and “That’s Rich” were terrific.

This is a testosterone heavy show and perhaps because of that the music all sounds pretty much the same. There seems to be one semi-rousing ballad after another – even the titles tell you that (“Carrying the Banner,” “Seize the Day,” “Watch What Happens,” “The World Will Know”).

I came away from the show — I must admit the audience was cheering – feeling that it was all of one note;  it needed variation in tone, in voices and in choreography.  It is too formulaic.

Yet the performances all hard working, earnest and professional.  If it is hard to really differentiate the boys except for Jack, Crutchy, Davey, it is not the fault of the performers but of the script.  They are interchangeable.

Smith tries to project the young woman rebelling against her famous father and her privileged up-bringing.  She does a good job, but this role also is seriously underwritten.

The scenic design by Tim Brown reflects the urban environment with moving structures that reminded.  Fan Zhang did the period costumes and made the boys look probably cleaner and better dressed than they really were.

Many people will enjoy Newsies, if only for the energy.  But this is only a moderately successful musical which was reflected in New York by the limited awards (and even nominations) the show received.

For tickets visit Connecticut Repertory Theater.

Newsies 8_edited

Tina Fabrique. Photo by Gerry Goodstein.

 

“Newsies” Is All Energy But Little Else

Photo by Deen Van Meeer

Photo by Deen Van Meeer

By Karen Isaacs

 Boy they work hard.  The young men who comprise most of the cast of Newsies or Disney’s Newsies as it is billed which is now at the Bushnell in Hartford through Oct. 18 dance up a storm almost non-stop.

While it is impressive, one could paraphrase a line from Shakespeare because unfortunately it all signifies nothing.

Newsies which opened on Broadway in 2012 closing after 1004 performances is based on the Disney film of the same name that was released in 1992.  Both tell – with some dramatic license –the story of the 1899 strike by newsboys in New York City against Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst (the two most prominent newspaper publishers in the city) over an increase in the price charged by the papers to the boys.  In reality it wasn’t the first such strike but the boys – and they really were young boys – did win some concessions.

For the Broadway production Harvey Fierstein rewrote the book and Alan Menkin and Jack Feldman added songs while also deleting some that had been in the original film.

The premise is still about the strike but as in the movie, these are not young boys but older adolescents – looking at them you would guess they were at least 16 or several years older.  This dilutes one of the elements in the show which is about the treatment of orphaned and poor children and child labor in general.

The strike is led by Jack Kelly (Joey Barreiro) who wants to escape to Santa Fe but he rallies the group to protest the price rise from 50 cents for 100 papers to 60 cents.  The boys sell the papers for one or two cents.  Pulitzer wants to raise the price because following the Spanish-American War, circulation and therefore profits have declined.

Photo by Deen Van Meer

Photo by Deen Van Meer

The show – like an older Annie – has the requisite types among the boys – Crutchy (Zachary Sayle) who limps and whom Kelly protects, the kid from Brooklyn, and of course the slightly more affluent new boy Davey (Joshua Burrage) whose father was let go from a factory because he had been injured on the job.  Plus we have Davey’s younger brother, Les (Ethan Steiner in the performance I saw) – cute and sassy.

Also, there has to be a romance – and Fierstein clarified and combined characters.  In a truly ironic turn, the romantic interest (Katherine played by Morgan Keene) is an aspiring female reporter who it turns out to be Pultizer’s daughter. Later on the sons of Hearst and another publisher help the boys. The only other significant female role is that of Medda Larkin (Aisha DeHaas) who owns and stars at a theater in the Bowery; she is the requisite motherly figure.

This is a testosterone heavy show and perhaps because of that the music all sounds pretty much the same. There seems to be one semi-rousing ballad after another – even the titles tell you that (“Carrying the Banner,” “Seize the Day,” “Watch What Happens,” “The World Will Know”). The choreography by Christopher Gattelli focuses on stomping, fist pumping and acrobatics.

Photo by Deen Ban Meer

Photo by Deen Ban Meer

Yes, there are a few moments of relief but they are few and far between. “The Bottom Line” demonstrates Pulitzer and later the Mayor’s point of view.  Medda gets one “on-stage” number and Katherine gets a ballad and a love song with Jack.

I came away from the show — I must admit the audience was cheering – feeling that it was all of one note;  it needed variation in tone, in voices (in group numbers Katherine is drowned out), in choreography.  It is too formula.

Yet the performances all hard working, earnest and professional.  If it is hard to really differentiate the boys except for Jack, Crutchy, Davey, it is not the fault of the performers but of the script.  They are interchangeable.

Morgan Keene tries to project the young woman rebelling against her famous father and her privileged up-bringing.  She does a good job, but this role also is seriously underwritten.

The scenic design by Tobin Ost reflects the urban environment with giant moving structures that reminded me of the old Erector set toys.  Jess Goldstein did the period costumes and made the boys look probably cleaner and better dressed than they really were.

As is often a problem at the Bushnell, the sound system blasts the anthem which blurs lyrics.

Of course, Fierstein had to add a cameo appearance by then Governor of New York Teddy Roosevelt.  Can we have a show of the period without TR appearing?

Many people will enjoy Newsies, if only for the energy.  But this is only a moderately successful musical which was reflected in New York by the limited awards (and even nominations) the show received.

Newsies is at the Bushnell, 166 Capitol Ave., Hartford. For tickets visit bushnell.org.

“Newsies” in Waterbury, “Intimate Exchange” in Westport, “Annapurna” in Hartford

Inside notes and comments about Connecticut and New York Professional Theater

By Karen Isaacs

Newsies: The touring company of Newsies is making a Connecticut stop at the Palace Theater in Waterbury, Oct. 23-25.  The show opened on Broadway in 2012 and won the Tony for choreography.  Based on the Disney film of the same name, it tells the story of turn of the 20th century New York City newsboys who fight the newspaper publishers when they try to raise prices to the boys.  Alan Menken and Jack Feldman wrote the music and lyrics. For tickets visit http://www.palacetheaterct.org.

Tale of Romance and Fakery:  Winding up the season at Westport Country Playhouse is Intimate Apparel by Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage.  The play tells the story of Esther, a gifted African-American seamstress in the early 20th century and her dilemma about love. Mary B. Robinson is directing the cast which is headed by Nikki E. Walker.  The shows runs Oct. 7 to Nov. 1. For tickets call 888-927-7529 or visit http://www.westportplayhouse.org.

 Humorous with a Twist: The press materials on Annapurna which is opening the TheaterWorks season describes it as both healing and humorous and it says it is a story “about the longevity of love.”  Playwright Sharr White wrote last season’s well received The Other Place. In this story, after 20 years apart, a woman tracks down her ex-husband to find him a poet living in a Colorado trailer park. Artistic Director Rob Ruggiero directs the two person cast: Debra Jo Rupp who played Dr. Ruth last season and Vasili Bogazianos. The show runs to Nov. 9.  For tickets call 860-527-7838 or visit http://www.theaterworkshartford.org.

The Only Show This Year: The Circus in Winter is the only show being produced at the Norma Terris Theater in Chester by Goodspeed this year.  The reason?  The other shows that were being considered just weren’t ready for even a limited workshop.  The Circus in Winter runs Oct. 23 to Nov. 16. According to the press material, ” Love, lust, betrayal, and tragedy unfold in a series of interwoven stories that reveal the private lives of a death-defying acrobat, sideshow African queen, lonely circus owner, disheveled clowns, and more.”  The music and lyrics are by Ben Clark who is writing his first full-length musical.  He has received awards from the Kennedy Center (for outstanding musical composition) and a fellowship at the O’Neill Center. He also worked on the musical at the Johnny Mercer Writer’s Colony at Goodspeed. The book is by Hunter Foster and Beth Turcott, both experienced book writers. Teal Wicks who was Julie Jordan in Goodspeed’s Carousel plays Jennie Dixiana.  For tickets visit http://www.goodspeed.org or call 860-873-8668.

Replacing Bing and Fred: The cast of Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn which is now at Goodspeed though not yet reviewed by the critics, has already extended its run to Dec. 7.  Noah Racey– who is both a terrific dancer and a choreographer — plays the role of Ted which was originated by Fred Astaire.  Racey starred in Where’s Charley? at Goodspeed.  In the role originated by Bing Crosby is Corey Mach who has appeared on Broadway in Godspell and Hands on a Hardbody. For tickets visit http://www.goodspeed.org or call 860-873-8668.  Goodspeed offers a variety of special events including a Friday dinner theater package, meet the cast nights and other activities.

Theater Close-Up: You should check your TV listings but Channel 13 is presenting a series of shows on Thursdays at 10 p.m. beginning Oct. 2 featuring off-Broadway and off-off-Broadway productions.  The first show is the Mint Theater Company’s production of London Wall. The Mint specializes in rediscovering and producing lesser known works of America and England from the first half of the 20th century.  This play is by John Van Druten  (he wrote The Fourposter, Bell,Book and Candle, and I Am a Camera on which Cabaret was based.)

This content courtesy of Shore Publications and http://www.zip06.com

 

“Woody Sez”, “Newsies” in Connecticut and Broadway Readings

Inside notes and comments about Connecticut and New York Professional Theater

By Karen Isaacs

Newsies on Tour:  The first Connecticut appearance of the national tour of Newsies which is closing on Broadway this August, isn’t at the Bushnell or the Shubert.  The honor goes to Waterbury’s Palace Theater where the tour will play Oct. 23 to 25, just four performances.  Tickets are now on sale. For tickets, visit http://www.palacetherct.org or call 203-646-2000.  The Broadway series will continue with Jekyll & Hyde (Dec. 6-7), The Buddy Holly Story (Jan. 23-24), Sister Act (March 6-7) and I Love Lucy Live on Stage (May 30-31).

A Folk Legend: Woody Guthrie is sometimes referred to as the father of American folk revival: he influenced Peter Seeger, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and generations of performers and composers.  TheaterWorks is presenting Woody Sez which is billed as a musical event that, as the press materials say, “uses Woody’s words and songs to transport the audience through his fascinating and sometimes tragic life.”  The show runs Aug. 8 to Sept. 14. For tickets call 860-527-7838 or visit http://www.theaterworkshartford.org.

Ambitious Production: Ivoryton always produces one really big musical during the summer. This year it is Jerry Herman’s classic La Cage aux Folles which runs through Aug. 31. The musical was based on a French movie about a long established gay couple one of whom is a drag star on the Rivera and what happens when their son becomes engaged to the daughter of a very conservative politician.  You may recall the American film The Birdcage which set the movie in New Orleans.  Among the hit songs are “I Am Who I Am,” “The Best of Times Is Now,”  and “Look Over There” as well as others.  For tickets call 860-767-7318 or visit http://www.ivorytonplayhouse.org.

 New Blog: If you’d like to check out my reviews of both Connecticut and New York, visit my new blog: http://www.2ontheaisle.wordpress.com.

 Broadway News: Two musicals that were expected to be big hits — Rocky the Musical (because of name recognition) and Bullets Over Broadway (because of the source material and the pedigrees of those involved) are accepting defeat and closing this month.  Both shows got mediocre reviews and few awards.  Both will lose mega-millions.  While I had no great expectations for Rocky, Bullets Over Broadway disappointed me.  It was one of the shows I was really looking forward to.

Michelle Williams has extended her contract to play Sally Bowles in the revival of Cabaret through Nov. 9.  The show itself is selling tickets through Jan 4.  Personally, I though Williams was the weakest member of the cast, but I still highly recommend the revival at Studio 54. Tickets are available at http://www.RoundaboutTheatre.org or 202-719-1300.

In the Works:  Development time for Broadway musicals can easily be 5 years or more and many projects disappear along the way.  But summer is the time when shows-in-the-works do New York readings to gauge reaction and interest of producers and investors. Some are revised versions of existing works, some are based on popular plays, films and TV shows, and others are totally new.  Among those getting industry readings — often with well-known talent — this summer are: Gigi with a new book. This movie musical has already had  a Broadway version in the 1970s. It will get a staged production at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. in January.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil  — the reading including Leslie Uggams with a book by Alfred Uhry (Driving Miss Daisy). The score will not be original but include Southern rock, blues, gospel and songs from the American songbook.

A musical Hew-Haw, yes, it is based on the TV show, will get a workshop in September. A musical version of Bull Durham will get a production at the Alliance Theater in Atlanta this September with Will Swenson as “Crash” Davis and Melissa Errico as Annie Savoy.

Nine Wives which had a reading at Goodspeed’s Festival of New Musicals several Januarys ago got what was billed as a “developmental production” at the Sharon Playhouse in Sharon, Connecticut.

The York Theater Company in New York included a new musical about Rodgers and Hart — Falling for Make Believe– in its summer series.

A new political musical — A Woman on Top got an industry reading. It’s about a woman senator who seeks the Presidential nomination while her ex-husband seeks the same for the opposition.

Lillas White and others did a reading of a new musical Harriet based on Harriet Tubman’s life. Richard Chamberlain was part of a benefit reading at the Berkshire Theater Group of a new musical Sometimes Love about a group of contemporary New Yorkers.

This content is courtesy of Shore Publicatins and zip06.com. Click here for original.

%d bloggers like this: