Newsies, Broadway’s smash-hit musical from the Disney team, burst onto the Durham Performing Arts Center’s stage Tuesday night — and though it was fabulous and fun, it wasn’t the only exciting event of the evening. DPAC welcomed its 3 millionth visitor, Durham native Erin Andrews, right before the curtain went up, with lots of confetti, cameras, and a $1,000 gift certificate.
Since the theater opened eight years ago, DPAC has consistently ranked in the top five most attended theaters in the U.S. It has also become home to SunTrust Broadway at DPAC, which is one of the top Broadway series in the United States. The Triangle is lucky to have such a powerful force in the theater industry right in our backyard, especially when that theater brings phenomenal shows like Newsies to its floorboards.
The Disney musical was originally intended for a very short Broadway run in 2012; but the show with its fast-paced dancing and music, its powerful American story, and up-and-coming stars garnered a powerful fan base. The show earned an extension and the show moved to 1,004 performances with an attendance of over a million. Newsies has broken many box-office records, became the highest-grossing Broadway show during the 2011-12 Broadway season, has received 23 major theatrical nominations and is now a Tony®-winning musical.
Inspired by the newsboys’ strike of 1899, when a young newsboy named Kid Blink became the leader of a group of orphan and runaway newsies as they fought a two-week long strike against the giant publishing magnates Pulitzer and Hearst, Newsies became the uplifting tale of Jack Kelly (Joey Barreiro), a rough-and-ready newsboy who becomes the reluctant leader of a group of newsies who fight Joseph Pulitzer (Steve Blanchard) and William Randolph Hearst for fair distribution prices to newboys. This stage production features seven new songs by the original team of Alan Menken and Jack Feldman, including the powerful “King of New York.”
The show begins on a rooftop where Jack and his best friend Crutchie (Andy Richardson) dream about leaving the city and finding a place in the mountains of Santa Fe, NM, where Jack can leave delivering newspapers behind and follow his dream of becoming an artist.
That scene presents a twist in the standard rags-to-riches story of the corn-bred kid from the middle of the country who travels to the bright lights of New York City or the sparkling boulevards of Los Angeles to pursue their creative dream. It’s a twist that immediately draws you in and when it’s supported by the very strong plot line of the newsboys against the publishing giants, it becomes the central metaphor of the show.
We all want to go to Santa Fe with Jack at the end of the story. We want to see those fabulous mountains that he keeps painting as backdrops for his friend Medda Larkin (wonderfully played by Aisha De Haas) for her to hang in her theater.
A piece of trivia about the show: the dancer-actors in this show wear two pairs of distinctly different shoes. The first half of the show is danced in soft jazz shoes, but the second half — that second half! — is danced in taps.
Though the first half of the musical is memorable with songs such as “Santa Fe” and the wonderfully wry and gravelly sung “That’s Rich,” this is one show where you want to definitely return after intermission.
The staccato synchronization of the newsies as they sing and dance through “King of New York” underlines the call to power when the boys are about to give it all — lose their jobs and their only income — to fight for their rights against the men with the power. One has to be impressed by the spunk of the boys, who sleep on the street and support their families, when they keep going even after seeing their friends taken to a home for wayward kids that is more abusive than any relationship they’ve already endured. Crutchie (played with beyond-the-lights personality by Andy Richardson) worries about escaping in “Letter from the Refuge,” a somber look at the way street children were mistreated prior to child labor laws.
Highlights of the show are many, but the little surprises are what creates the show’s fan base. Jack’s crusty exterior hides a very sensitive artist on the interior, Crutchie’s physical inabilities has made him stronger emotionally, Katherine’s (Morgan Keene) matter-of-fact journalist attitude hides the privileged status she owned as a child. The dancing is athletic and non-stop, just as crisp and high-energy in the finale as it was in the opening scene. And the singing is gritty (Joey Barreiro) and throaty/husky (Aisha De Haas), and Disney-princess (Morgan Keene), but the little surprise is Steve Blanchard’s power when he reprises “The Bottom Line” as he/Pulitzer realizes the newsboys might win against him. He’s stately, imposing, and all eyes swerve toward him when he’s on stage, which makes it even more exciting when the underdogs win against him.
The show is fast, fun, and fabulous. Like any Disney production, it’s equally as enjoyable for kids as it is for adults. The talent is amazing, the steel-structured set evokes both the tenements of New York and the skyscraper publishing buildings, and the story is an American standard. What could be better?
SECOND OPINION: Aug 11th Durham, NC Herald-Sun preview by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: http://www.heraldsun.com/lifestyles/extra-extra-newsies-success-was-a-surprise/article_cf8c3b2e-5fcf-11e6-9fd9-cb76ff0536a1.html (Note: You must subscribe to read this article); Aug. 8th Raleigh, NC BroadwayWorld.com Raleigh preview by Taryn Oesch: http://www.broadwayworld.com/raleigh/article/BWW-Preview-NEWSIES-Heads-to-DPAC-20160808; and Aug. 7th Burlington, NC Times-News preview by Jakob S. Miller for “Teens & Twenties”: http://teensandtwenties.com/newsies-has-history-heart/. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the Aug. 16th Triangle Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2016/08/stop-the-presses-again-disneys-newsies-will-return-to-dpac-for-eight-shows-on-aug-16-21/.)
The Durham Performing Arts Center presents Disney’s NEWSIES at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 17 and 18, 8 p.m. Aug. 19, 2 and 8 p.m. Aug. 20, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Aug. 21 at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701, in the American Tobacco Historic District.
TICKETS: $30-$90. Click here for DPAC Special Offers.
DPAC Box Office: 919-680-ARTS (2787), firstname.lastname@example.org, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events-tickets/where-to-buy.
Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115558/1984863.
GROUP RATES (15+ tickets): 919/281-0587, Groups@DPACnc.com, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events-tickets/group-services.
SHOW: http://www.dpacnc.com/events/detail/newsies-1 and https://www.facebook.com/events/817346731728495/.
VIDEO PREVIEW: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b7Y-t0wg2_k.
THE TOUR: http://www.newsiesthemusical.com/ and https://www.ibdb.com/tour-production/newsies-the-musical–499537.
TOUR CAST: http://www.newsiesthemusical.com/cast.
TOUR CREATIVE TEAM: http://www.newsiesthemusical.com/cast/_creative_team.
TOUR STUDY GUIDE: http://newsiesthemusical.com/pdf/NewsiesStudyGuide.pdf.
DPAC NEWS RELEASE: http://www.dpacnc.com/news/detail/disneys-newsies-triumphantly-returns-to-dpac-in-2016.
PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.dpacnc.com/, https://www.facebook.com/DPACNC, https://twitter.com/DPAC, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Durham_Performing_Arts_Center.
DPAC AGE RESTRICTION (Kids at DPAC): “Please note that all guests require a ticket, regardless of age. Children under the age of 6 are not allowed at this performance. Children must be able to sit quietly in their own seat without disturbing other guests. As a further courtesy to our guests, DPAC recommends one parent or chaperone for every one child in attendance.”
Newsies (1992 movie musical): http://movies.disney.com/newsies (official website), http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/21492/Newsies/ (Turner Classic Movies page), http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0104990/ (Internet Movie Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newsies (Wikipedia).
Newsies (2011 Paper Mill Playhouse and 2012 Broadway musical): http://www.newsiesthemusical.com/ (official website), http://www.mtishows.com/show_detail.asp?showid=000427 (Music Theatre International), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-show/newsies-the-musical-491209 (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.facebook.com/Newsies (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/Newsies (Twitter page), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newsies_%28musical%29 (Wikipedia).
Alan Menken (music): http://www.alanmenken.com/ (official website), http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=12135 (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.facebook.com/AlanMenkenStudio (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/aimenken (Twitter page), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Menken (Wikipedia).
Jack Feldman (lyrics): http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=79622 (Internet Broadway Database) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Feldman_%28songwriter%29 (Wikipedia).
Harvey Fierstein (book): http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=6157 (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.facebook.com/harvey.fierstein (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/harveyfierstein (Twitter page), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harvey_Fierstein (Wikipedia).
Dawn Reno Langley is a Durham, NC-based author who writes novels, poetry, children’s books, and nonfiction books on many subjects, as well as theater, music, and dance reviews. She is also a writer, editor, writing coach at Reno’s Literary Services of Durham. To read all of Dawn Langley’s Triangle Review reviews online at Triangle Arts and Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/dawn-reno-langle/. To read more of her writings, click http://dawnrenolangley.blogspot.com/ and http://poetryandgardening.blogspot.com/.