“Newsies” – Phoenix Theatre

Theater Review – November 19, 2017


Phoenix Theatre
Phoenix, AZ

Tackling “Newsies,” the 2012 Broadway musical version of the popular 1992 Walt Disney film about mistreated New York City children who sold newspapers in 1899, is no easy task.  The show demands a huge cast of superb male ensemble, a pulsating staging pace, dynamic dances, and fully integrated scenery that moves with and becomes part of the show.  All of these elements are present in Phoenix Theatre’s impeccable production.

The energetic local staging is sanctified with a stunning group of accomplished male dancer/singers who are beautifully showcased in Michael Barnard’s lively staging that is enhanced by James Kinney’s exuberant Broadway-caliber choreography, and presented in Robert Kovach’s marvelous sets that are beautifully integrated into the fast-moving and wildly entertaining production.  What a local triumph!

The show has a huge chorus of brilliant male dancers who can also sing so dazzlingly executed musical numbers result.  A flawless sound system allows not one word of Jack Feldman’s insightful dialogue to be lost, a rousing orchestra conducted by Alan Ruch plays the hummable Alan Menken score with enthusiasm that highlights Harvey Fierstein’s fascinating book that never lets the historically true story grow musty.  The musical sparkles with life that enhances the show’s positive framework that easily could have become a plodding downer.

The story highlights kids who sell newspapers to earn needed money to support themselves and their families.  Jack, the group’s leader, rallies the boys to fight the unfair treatment from newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer and other news barons.  Jack ultimately wins the war by employing shrewd insight.  Jack not only wins the battle but instills pride in the boys who are suddenly appreciated.  Without them, the newspapers won’t sell.

Jack is played expertly by James D. Gish who dominates the production whenever he is on stage.  Outstanding contributions come from Rusty Ferracane who is masterful as Pulitzer, and  Emilie Doering who is a feisty Katherine, Pulitzer’s daughter but a supporter of the newsies.  There are several fine character studies like Terry Gadaire’s convincing Teddy Roosevelt and Chanel Bragg as the entertainer Medda Larkin who champions the kids.

One must also comment on the current Phoenix Theatre season which opened with a smashing “Mamma Mia,” followed by a sensitively executed “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” and now this triumphant “Newsies.”  These three shows make an impeccable season thus far.  If the remaining six shows continue the trend, Phoenix Theatre will provide this town’s finest musical entertainment.

“Newsies” is an entertaining delight that continues through December 31.  For tickets, call the Phoenix Theatre box office at 602-254-2151 or order tickets online at www.phoenixtheatre.com.

Grade: A