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6/9/12

Newsies - A Crowd Pleaser at your Service.

When I was doing my Tony awards posting around the time of the nominations at the beginning of May, some eagle-eye readers noticed I did not have much to say about Newsies. There is a reason for that; namely, I hadn't had seen it at the time.


Now that I have seen it...enh, I wanted to love the show, but I can't. Part of the show's overpraise to the point of insufferability begins with the fact that its source movie is pretty awesomely-terrible. Is this revised show an improvement? Of course; the bar was set super low. Factor that into another weak year of new musicals et voila...Newsies is a front-runner of the season simply because it does not suck, not because it is an amazing show or anything. It is simply a good show whose only success is providing entertainment.

And believe me, that is completely fine. Newsies is what a large portion of the ticket buying audience want when seeing a Broadway show; big singing, epic dance choreography, moving set pieces and a crowd-pleasing story. Hey, I can turn off my brain and enjoy the Disney fluff story. I did just that...with my pal Caroline (yes, I miss her Skype commentary too, you guys) in tow, we took in a Sunday matinee and were pleased when we left the theater. Do I want to see the show again? Enh...

If I had to single out some things I liked without reservation, I would have to begin with the choreography. It is nothing new or avant garde sotospeak, but it is a mixture of high-energy, incredible techniques and sequences, only to be matched by some world-class talent. When the audience starts breaking out into applause mid-sequence, I agreed with them. This is not a makeshift crew of inexperience dancers faking it until they make it; you instinctively know that these other wordly beings are Twyla-Tharped and have been training for years to pull off such ambitious maneuvers with perfection.



See what I mean?


And while I stand by my comment about the story (and direction) being "Disney fluff," some top-notch performances sidestep cheesefest and are, like, legitimate. Capathia Jenkins does good work in an underwritten role of Medda Larkin (even though her "That's Rich" number is somewhat expendable). I was not buying Kara Lindsay's performance at first, but she grows into her role of Katherine Plumber, an ambitious, ace reporter who commits to helping the Newsboys. In short, she slowly makes for a Disney worthy heroine for Jack Kelly by the end, even if her first solo number, "Watch What Happens," is ultra lame (oh, and her big love duet with Jack in the second act was pretty flat as well). One of my spirit animals, Andrew Keenan-Bolger, as Crutchie, was fantastic in another one of the show's underwritten roles. Had the boy been given a solo, it may have propelled him to a Tony nomination, hands-down. His thick-accented, limping Crutchie is so fun-loving and heartbreaking at the same time.

As far as the show's only acting nominee, Jeremy Jordan is my pick to win on sunday. That is saying a lot considering I kept calling him "not Stark Sands" during his last outing on Broadway (Bonnie and Clyde). Sorry Jeremy; I liked you here and think you should win over Norm Lewis and Steve Kazee. No small honor given how much I love the other two...

Jordan's Jack Kelly is everything you want out of a male lead; a roof-crashing voice, edgy, heroic, sensitive at times and a Brooklyn accent. You get a sense that Jordan is happy being on stage and he definitely brings an intensity that the role needs to work effectively. Even when he is just wailing his face off about how he wants to move to Sante Fe (seriously, what is up with theater characters and Santa Fe? Is there a nice hotel deal there or something?), he brings the emotion to override an overly smug exterior. Watching him throw down with the show's antagonists is pretty fun too; especially the penultimate scene of the show as his charm becomes even more infectious.

But that's it...praise over. The rest of the show is the Disney Broadway standard (with an emphasis on the word 'standard', might I add) that pops up every few years trying to be the next The Lion King. Put simply, it's just not my preferred style of a show and had this opened in a less-forgiving year, it's flaws and spots of blandness would have been barbecued. And before anyone begins accusing me of hating on crowd-pleasers, I have nothing against them. I liked Priscilla Queen of the Desert for its utter nonsense and heck, Potted Potter was full of greatness for being a family-friendly show. Newsies is lucky it has such great dance sequences and Jordan's standout performance because the rest of the show does not challenge me or even register at all. It's a good show...but don't expect me to give into the over-hype, especially when Peter and the Starcatcher is a few blocks away and outdoing Newsies at everything and knocking me dead everytime.


Video Credit: The View
Photo Credit: Newsies on Facebook

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