BY RACHEL SCHONBERGER
“Newsies” is a fast-paced, talent-filled, riveting show that can single-handedly give the term “musical” a positive connotation. The Broadway touring company of the Disney movie-turned-musical opened at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts’ Au-Rene Theater on Nov. 17 with a packed audience.
The show is based on the Newsboys’ Strike of 1899, a fight between under-aged, on-the-street newspaper vendors and owners of “The New York Journal” and “New York World.” When Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst, the owners of the two newspapers, pull a fast one on the newsboys, also known as newsies, and raise the prices of the papers, they become too expensive for the boys to afford, resulting in a strike of the newspapers. Newsboy aficionado Jack Kelly (Joey Barreiro), partners with his new confidant Davey (Stephen Michael Langton), and his ever-adorable little brother, Les (Ethan Steiner), to lead the strike. On their journey, they are faced with conflicts of hope, love and law.
From the moment the show begins, energy resonates off of every seat. The passion-driven newsboys have hope so largely felt that everyone in the audience can take a piece and join in on the shenanigans.
One of the most important aspects of the musical is its intense dance numbers. The movement of the newsies is very unique, their feet moving swiftly in a manner similar to that of ballet, but faster and more precise. The way every step of their tap shoes is in unison makes for the clean-cut, ear-pleasing musical numbers. It is this style of dancing to advance the plot and characters that distinguishes “Newsies” from other Disney musicals.
Although plenty of the songs are dance-heavy group numbers, there are still plenty of ballads. The plot is mostly focused on the strike, but there are numerous romantic moments between Jack Kelly and Katherine Plumber (Morgan Keene), a writer who adopted a different last name in order to avoid a journalistic connection with her father, Joseph Pulitzer. At first, her relationship with Jack is not mutual, but once Katherine takes on the strike as a news story, she becomes much more open to thinking of him romantically. The connection between Barreiro and Keene seems authentic, their love blossoming right in front of the audience.
The way the set and blocking work together in “Newsies” is outstanding. The set consists of nine square railings stacked on top of each other that move to complement the story. At one point, the police chase Jack, and the use of the set’s 12 staircases makes it look effortless.
Of course, the musical would have been nothing without the beautiful soundtrack of Alan Menken. The harmonies in every song melt hearts after exposing them to the light of musical genius.
Since the show is ensemble-heavy, every member of the show plays a key role. Each newsboy has unique characteristics that enhance the scenes they have together and make their character choices clear.
“Newsies” perfectly shares a heart-wrenching, inspirational story, leaving residue of laughter and tears in the theater.