Apr. 12th, 2015

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NEWSIES! The musical.

I've always been a sucker for Hollywood musicals. From Bob Hope to Howard Keel to Doris Day, I couldn't get enough. So while Newsies was not well received when it came out 23 years ago, I adored it.

You all know how excited I was a few years ago when I heard that Disney was bringing it to the stage Off-broadway. I practically held my breath when it moved to Broadway waiting for the day that it went on Tour.

Jim got us tickets on StubHub for Christmas. Row M. I think that may be the closest I've ever sat at the Pantages. We were on the end of the row so we were a little off to the side, but that was fine. I think the two guys sitting next to me may have been even more excited than me. I took a picture for them while we waited fit the site to start and sort of listened in on their conversation while we sat there. The one next to me had tried out to be in Newsies, but didn't make it. He actually squealed when the lights went down. It was adorable.

You have to approach the musical knowing it's almost an entirely different animal than the movie.

Things I don't like:
I know it's musical theatre, but I have a serious problem with Pulitzer singing and dancing.

I knew I'd miss Denton.

The removal of some scenes from the movie, like Jack having dinner with David and Les' parents (and sister/Jack's love interest).

Santa Fe is the first song. The fact is that they had to move it somewhere as it was previously just after the dinner with the parents scene, and it probably works just fine if you're not familiar with the movie, but it feels a little abrupt when you know the movie as well as I do.

Katherine was sort of a Nelly Bly sort of character. She has made a point of striking out on her own to make it as a news woman without her father's help. Why would she sit quietly, hidden in a dark corner until her father was prepared to use her presence and relationship with him to hurt Jack?

Things I like:
In the movie Jack took care of Crutchy as much as he was able. In the musical that relationship was flagged out a bit and the concept of "family by choice" was addressed a lot more.

I loved the technology used to further the story. Projections showing the chalkboard where they post the headlines changing in real time and much larger than an actor could manage in stage. It also shows what Katherine is typing as she works on her story about the newsboy's strike. And it shows the image that Jack sketches on a crumpled bit of newspaper when he meets Katherine.

I love that they gave Jack a useful talent instead of just the charisma that makes him the spokesman of the newsboys and the ability to improve on the truth and sell the headlines.

The staging. Really very amazing the number of scenes that they created using metal cages that moved around the stage throughout the play and a few props. Tables, chairs, bunk beds,  a desk, a hanging lamp and some clothesline became a rooftop, a cellar, a deli, the office of Pulitzer at the World, a vaudeville theatre, the newsboys boarding house, the Refuge.

It's a given that everybody in a broadway show can dance, but you'd have thought that would be the case in a Hollywood musical movie, and Christian Bale's dancing in the movie was just atrocious. The dancing in this musical is fabulous. Every one of the guys is amazingly acrobatic and out all of their energy and effort into every move and it's stunning to watch.

I like that in scenes that took place inside Medda's theatre, the musical's audience becomes Medda's audience. This causes a small problem in that the inclusion caused some audience members to decide that the actors needed to know their opinions of their muscles. One particularly loud whoop of appreciation for Spot Conlon's biceps was greeted with an amusing "Shh", and the actor continued his speech.

Overall, as I said at the beginning, you have to be able to roll with the changes to the original, but it was pretty fabulous.


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