“Newsies” Tour is King of Chicago

Extra! Extra! Read all about it! “Newsies” is in town and taking Randolph Street by storm.

This touring production of the Tony Award-winning Broadway hit based on the 1992 movie of the same name is ultimately based on the 1899 Newsboys Strike in New York City. In “Newsies,” a group of ragtag boys working for the New York World grow tired of not having a seat at the table, especially after Joseph Pulitzer raises the price of their newspapers to 60 cents per 100. So, taking a cue from the trolley strike making headlines for the third straight week (a problem for those trying to sell “papes”), they stage their own David vs. Goliath clash.  Newsflash (spoiler alert!): David wins.

If you’ve seen the 1992 film, it might be impossible not to compare that Disney version to this one. There are quite a few songs that made the cut from film to stage, but they’ve also been given updated lyrics and arrangements, which, when added to completely new songs and characters, make this version a hit all on its own. And the touring production doesn’t disappoint.

Christian Bale and Jeremy Jordan are tough acts to follow, but Dan DeLuca steps right in where they left off as New York’s infamous Jack Kelly, the tough guy that all newsies look to for guidance. Although the idea to strike originated with Davey (Jacob Kemp), a boy new to the newsie world due to his father’s unemployment, Jack is the only one who can bring it to fruition.

It’s Stephanie Styles‘ Katherine who takes the strike to the next level by bringing kids from all jobs together to not only fight unfair wages but also poor working conditions. Katherine is an aspiring reporter and a new character for the stage adaptation. The movie lacked a lead female role, but this production remedies that by offering a strong woman breaking her own barriers while covering the strike. Sure, she’s also a love interest for Jack, but “Watch What Happens” shows what really makes this character great.

Speaking of strong women, Medda Larkin (Angela Grovey) also has a much bigger role, including “That’s Rich,” a show-stopping song fit for this diva.

Of course, the real stars of “Newsies” are the members of the ensemble, including Zachary Sayle as Crutchie, Benjamin Cook as Race and Julian DeGuzman as Finch. On opening night, Les, the precocious almost-10-year-old brother of Davey, was played by Vincent Crocilla.

Not only can they all sing, but the dance numbers, especially in “Seize the Day” and “King of New York,” are second to none.

Behind the scenes, the set design done by Tobin Ost is superb. Plus, as mentioned previously, the choreography by Christopher Gattelli is deserving of its own standing ovation. The 2012 Tony Award for Best Choreography was much deserved.

While newsies might be the ones selling newspapers,” “Newsies” is selling tickets, and it’s no wonder why. You may feel a wee bit manipulated, but you will love every minute of it. There are only a few more weeks until this strike moves on to another city, so make sure you get to Oriental Theatre while the presses are still hot.

 

Disney’s “Newsies” runs through Jan. 4 at Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph St., Chicago. For more information and tickets, visit Broadway in Chicago’s website.