Disney’s Tony winning Broadway musical “Newsies” is, without question, a whirlwind of non-stop youthful energy. But the plot is thinner than newsprint and no amount of acrobatic dancing and mile high jumps can mask that fact.
Inspired by the 1899 New York City newsboy strike, Disney pumped in more fiction than fact to create the 1992 movie musical, which fizzled and died at the box office. The film found a second wind and a fervent following thanks to home video.
Years later, someone in home office dusted off this DVD and thought: “Ah yes, scrappy dancing newsboys will sell tickets.”
Bringing in Harvey Fierstein to bolster the book and composer Alan Menken to augment his film score with some new numbers, the stage version of “Newsies” was born at the noteworthy Paper Mill Playhouse in 2011 and zoomed onto Broadway a few months later.
WHERE: Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady
WHEN: Through Friday
HOW MUCH: $100-$20
MORE INFO: 346-6204, www.proctors.org
But in re-creating “Newsies” for the stage, the authors did not solve the main problem with the piece — it isn’t dramatically interesting. To mask that, they made the show loud: Characters shout their songs with the last note a tribute to Ethel Merman — belted big and held forever. To distract from the moments when the show stalls stone dead, they tossed in more eye-popping dance number with the newsboys. Big grins and in-air somersaults impress — and distract from the fact that there’s nothing to sing or dance about.
“Newsies” is not a great Broadway musical, or even a good one, but it’s a terrific dance show full of very talented actors.
The cast is great, each and every one of them.
Stephanie Styles is the perfect Disney heroine as the Nellie Bly wannabe, Katherine. Whether ripping up the floor with the newsies in the best dance number of the evening “The King of New York” or making a yeoman’s effort to mine some emotion from the pedestrian lyrics of her solo, the ironically titled, “Watch What Happens,” the actress commits herself and succeeds completely.
As the musical hall maven with a heart of gold and a voice to match, Angela Grovey finds the right dash of sass as she entertains us. Steve Blanchard is appropriately villainous and snarly as publisher Joseph Pulitzer and Jacob Kemp and Anthony Rosenthal are wonderful as the brothers new to the trade.
As the labor organizer paperboy with a inexplicable dream of Santa Fe, Dan DeLuca proves a terrific triple threat — despite the lack of script — he is just that great.
This is a Disney show and, as expected, is presented with visual perfection. Set designer Tobin Ost’s three vertical steel towers flank the stage and seamlessly twist and turn into different parts of Gotham acting as a canvas for Sven Ortel’s effective projections.
Jess Goldstein’s costumes are smart, well-designed and executed design. Jeff Croiter’s lighting shadows the setting to just the correct time and place.
But it is Christopher Gattelli’s choreographic genius that gives this show its lift. Mixing in classic Broadway moves with the acrobatic, the musical numbers are electric, stunningly performed by a core of terrific dancers.
“Newsies” is fine entertainment, suitable for everyone. Great dancing crosses all age ranges.