Extra extra! (I know “extra” jokes are so played out by this point, but they’re also funny.) Newsies is one of the best things going on Broadway right now. Of course you don’t need me to tell you this, since it just got nominated for eight Tonys, including Best Musical. I reviewed the cast recording a few months ago, and promised to do a proper show review once I’d seen it. Well I’ve seen it now, and let me tell you: the music is only half of what makes this show so amazing. I don’t trust myself to write in paragraphs without turning this review into a giant run-on sentence of gushing, so let’s do it bullet point style!
(Fun sidenote: the book was written by Harvey Fierstein. Did you know Jeff Goldblum’s boss from Independence Day was a brilliant writer? Neither did I.)
- In the opening scene, where Crutchie tries to climb the ladder and nearly falls off, Jack shouts “You tryin’ to break the other leg?” at him while pulling him up. I liked that. It pushed home the fact that as much as Jack is a kid, he’s also the only parent most of these kids know. (And then becomes immediately sad as you wonder why a seventeen-year-old is parenting a bunch of kids barely younger than he is.)
- On a similar note: when David mentions his mother being worried about him, Jack replies “You’ve got folks?” and Les jumps in with “Sure, doesn’t everybody?” before David hushes him. Oh kids.
- This is a new addition since the Papermill run (I’m sure because I DEFINITELY would have remembered something like this). When the newsies in “Carrying the Banner” confront Oscar and Morris about strikebreaking, Morris sneers “I take care of the guy that takes care of me.” One of the boys asks “Isn’t your dad one of the strikers?” and he snaps “I guess he didn’t take care of me!” WHOA.
- I didn’t realize listening to the soundtrack that Jack and Katherine’s “For sure?/For sure.” exchange in the finale is actually an echo from their conversation pre-“Something To Believe In,” when she reassures him that they’re going to win. Aww.
- Everything that came out of Kara Lindsay’s mouth was pure gold, but especially “Why don’t you tell it to someone who cares?” when Jack tried to flirt with her, and “You ALREADY work for my father” when he objects to getting a job at the paper.
- One of the things I think they played up—and to excellent effect!—was the interplay between Katherine’s struggles as a woman and Jack’s (and David’s) struggles as working-class men. When she sees his drawing, she asks if he’s paying his way through art school, and can’t figure out why he laughs in her face at the idea. When she offers to write about them in the paper, Jack and David both ask why they shouldn’t be talking to “a real reporter” instead. I was suspicious about her introduction before I saw the show for the first time—a spunky rich girl character in a show about a working-class movement?—but in the end she not only works perfectly with the other characters, she makes a very strong and clear point about intersectionality in anti-oppression movements. Nice job!
- The kid playing Les was adorable without being grating. I was a little worried when I listened to the soundtrack, that he’d run along the lines of Winthrop in The Music Man (uuuugh) but the actor playing him walks that line between kiddie and smart really well.
- (Incidentally, I loved every bit of background interaction between him and Katherine, like her comforting him when Jack tries to end the strike. I loved the background acting in general—moments that most likely weren’t in the script, but that the actors improvised to add to their character.)
- Jack and Katherine’s handshake lingering juuuuuuuuuust a second too long before Les grabbed everyone’s attention = priceless. As was David’s mother-henning over him. “I’ve got a date!” “You’ve got a what?!”
- Everything and I mean everything Ben Fankhauser did was amazing. David in the musical doesn’t have as many lines as David in the movie, but he more than makes up for it with body language and line reads—all through Act One he moves really stiffly, like he’s massively uncomfortable in his clothes (i.e. before he properly joins the union) and then when we hit “Seize the Day,” he just comes bursting out. (Where’s his Tony nomination, huh? ROBBERY.)
- For a Disney musical, some of the scenes were downright violent—especially the ones between the newsies and the cops. There’s one moment I really liked when the police arrive to break up the newsies/strikebreakers fight, and one of the kids—I think Finch, but don’t quote me on that—runs up and says “About time you got here! We’re getting slaughtered—” and then gets cut off as the officer backhands him across the face and he falls. Even more brilliant/disturbing was Andrew Keenan-Bolger’s performance as Crutchie, curled up in a ball and screaming for help as the Delanceys beat the crap out of him. I know this sounds weird, but I absolutely believe that all these scenes were necessary—if you’re going to tell a story about a union, especially in this time period, you can’t gloss over the police brutality they faced. You just can’t.
- Speaking of, the riot/police beatdown happens at the end of Act One, and at the beginning of Act Two, all the kids have bruises on their faces, and Les’s arm is in a sling. Yikes.
- And while I’m on the topic of “”adult”” stuff in a kid’s musical, the stuff between Medda (Carpathia Jenkins) and Roosevelt (Kevin Carolan) made all the grown-ups in the audience howl. Specifically the bit near the end when they’re walking offstage and she says “I’d like to see this backseat I’ve been hearing so much about!” We’ll explain when you’re older, kids.
- Kara Lindsay’s body language all through “Watch What Happens” was amazing—she just plants herself onstage and belts. You can see the determination in every part of her body—especially in how she’s standing in a traditional “manly” posture with her legs apart and shoulders set.
- Josh Dossett’s (Pulitzer’s) delivery of “Too bad you’ve no family, but you can’t have mine!” was really interesting—obviously the musical doesn’t devote too much time to the relationship between Katherine and her father, but Dossett does put that extra bit of thought into how he feels.
- It’s almost pointless to go over all the incredible things Jeremy Jordan did with his voice and his face but I have to give a special shoutout to Santa Fe because HOLY COW. You can just feel the pain and loneliness filling up the theatre.
- (Also his conversation with Katherine pre-“Something To Believe In” as he stutters and trips over himself asking how she feels about him. “Girls like you—don’t go for guys like me.” I still miss “Then I See You Again” (“and it’s like I’m protected”) but their romance is still very much a role reversal of traditional musical romances, and I love it for that.
- I love how they used the projection over the stage, both to show Jack’s drawings of Katherine and the Refuge, and the newspaper headlines. It just adds that extra oomph.
And of course I went to the stage door and got everyone’s autographs—the cover of my playbill literally got so crowded I had to flip it over for the last few signatures. The cast were utter sweethearts, and one even made my day by recognizing me from when I went to the stagedoor back at Papermill. If you hit the stage door early, you migt be able to get trading cards—the actors each have some for their character, and carry a limited number at every performance. They run out fast though, so be sure to get there early.
Newsies is running at the Nederlander Theater until August 19th, at which point… it closes, apparently for good. So get those tickets now! Newsies The Musical on tumblr is taking fan questions, and you can buy tickets at their official website. They also have a playlist on YouTube where you can watch all the special tidbits like “Meet The Characters” videos and the cast’s reactions to the Tony noms. (I highly suggest watching that one; it’s adorable.) I dearly, dearly wish they’d take it on tour (come on Disney! You love money! You could make lots of it!) but even without that, they’ll still be carrying the banner at the Nederlander until August 19th.