“Newsies” – ASU Gammage

This review aired on KBAQ June 16, 2016


Broadway Across America – Arizona, ASU Gammage
Tempe, AZ

There are no surprises in “Newsies,” the latest Disney musical, but the simplistic plot is presented in a dazzlingly performed dance production that explodes all over the ASU Gammage stage.  The mostly male cast are accomplished dancers who deliver Christopher Gattelli’s stunning choreography with fanatical energy that is fascinating to watch and provides spirited entertainment.

Alan Menken’s mediocre score, Jack Feldman’s humdrum lyrics, and Harvey Fierstein’s blandly uninteresting book don’t make much of a musical without the exciting production.  The show traces the hard working young boys who sold New York City newspapers at the turn of the 20th century.  In those times, newspapers were the way people learned what was happening and most homes took a daily paper.  The newsboys got their first crack at a responsible job by delivering newspapers.

Although most of the boys have families, they are poor, and delivering newspapers together created camaraderie among them.  As they grow up, their newspaper delivery families prove more important than their real families.  Newspaper moguls try to control the boys by forcing price increases and other job issues until the boy’s form a union that stops people like Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst from taking advantage of them.  The show also reminds us of how badly poor people were treated by rich people and how society was so stratified based solely on wealth.

But it is not the plot that is most relevant in “Newsies.”  It is the wonderful staging and a superlative cast of singer/dancers who make audiences enjoy the entertaining values displayed.  Joey Barreiro plays the central character, Jack Kelly, and he sprints around the stage dancing and singing with engaging notoriety.  The rest of the cast essay the various boys who are all focused on success and the hope that they can rise out of the slums.  Many adults are mean tyrants although a few adults realize the kids’ point and push them to succeed.  The scenic design creates the boy’s miserable environment but the show’s multiple locales call on fast moving sets to shift so the show can progress quickly.

If you aren’t looking for a profound message and just want to be thoroughly entertained, “Newsies” fills the bill.  It continues through Sunday, June 19 at ASU Gammage.  Word from the box office staff opening night was that most of the show’s seats have been sold so call before trekking to Tempe in the hopes of seeing “Newsies.”  For tickets, call the Ticketmaster box office at 800-982-2787 or order tickets online at www.asugammage.com.

Grade: B