Liverpool, U.K. – Despite being an avid Disney and musical theater fan, I had never seen Newsies. Many of my friends told me great things about it, so I was very excited to hear that it had been released on Disney+.
The overture alone captivated me and now this show is one of my firm favorites.
I loved the fluidity of this production – the cast, music and set all moved effortlessly and the scenes flowed smoothly.
Perhaps the most striking thing about this musical is the choreography by Christopher Gattelli. If done badly, it would be a mess of poorly-timed fights and tap numbers, but the intricacy is incredible and undoubtedly one of the hardest and most complicated shows to perform.
The set plays a major part. Three grand metallic structures swing around the stage and provide levels, movement and a blank canvas for the scenes to build upon. The versatility of this ‘scaffolding’ changes the environment with only a little bit of imagination from the audience.
The constant changes and rearrangements of the set enhances the story, rather than distracting you from it.
Newsies follows the life of Jack Kelly, a young man who sells newspapers in the city of New York in the late 1800s. He’s the ringleader of the newsies and helps to organize a strike when the cost of their newspapers rise.
Played by Jeremy Jordan, the character is cocky, confident, but undeniably loveable and Jordan pulls this off with ease. With heart-breaking 11 o’clock numbers like “Santa Fe,” the character development is a prominent feature of the musical.
Kara Lindsay plays the role of Katherine Plumber, a young journalist who becomes involved with the strike. She is a feisty principal female, constantly making witty jokes, standing up for her beliefs, and very much challenging the stereotypes of a 19th century woman.
Her solo “Watch What Happens” was a highlight for me. Lindsay displays phenomenal acting ability with great comedic timing in addition to the vocally challenging number.
Lindsay and Jordan also have great chemistry and their excellence in these parts definitely contributes to their popularity in the theater community.
The cast is predominantly male, but it doesn’t feel overwhelmingly testosterone-filled. Lindsay and the female cast (Aisha De Haas, Meredith Inglesby, Kaitlyn Frank and Beth Stafford Laird) hold their own during ensemble numbers and the playful banter between Katherine Plumber and the newsies is sharp and amusing.
Andrew Keenan-Bolger and Ben Fankhauser, as Crutchie and Davey respectively, bring a great deal of emotion and character to their roles – despite the huge cast, each member of it has a distinct personality and an impressive triple-threat act of stellar acting, singing and dancing.
The story is based on the real-life newsboy strike in 1899 but was made famous by the 1992 musical film Newsies, starring Christian Bale, Bill Pullman and Robert Duvall.
The music, by Alan Menken with lyrics by Jack Feldman, is probably one of the reasons I love Newsies so much.
The Disney+ production was directed by Jeff Calhoun and Brett Sullivan and filmed at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood in 2016.
Newsies is sweetly sentimental, and some may dare to call it a cliché story of rebellion, resistance and unexpected romance, but this production is exactly the kind of thing that Disney does best.
It’s enjoyable, talent-filled and a perfect example of storytelling through music.
Rosie Evans is a Reporter with Youth Journalism International.