Thursday, February 5, 2015

Arsht Center: Newsies (reviews)

Newsies-690x310The national tour of Disney’s Newsies opened at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts on February 3, 2015.
They delivered the papers, until they made the headlines…Direct from Broadway comes Newsies, the smash-hit, crowd-pleasing new musical from Disney. Winner of the 2012 Tony Awards® for Best Score and Best Choreography, Newsies has audiences and critics alike calling it “A MUSICAL WORTH SINGING ABOUT!” (The New York Times). Filled with one heart-pounding number after another, it’s a high-energy explosion of song and dance you just don’t want to miss.
Jeff Calhoun directed a cast that included Dan DeLuca, Stephanie Styles, Steve Blanchard, Zachary Sayle, Jacob Kemp, and Angela Grovey. Choreography by Christopher Gattelli.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
It’s fortunate that Newsies is a dance-centric musical because much of the lyrics and dialogue were nearly impossible to understand in the national tour visiting the Arsht Center...  But that dancing is spectacular: scruffy adorable newsboys spinning and leaping airborne in unison at the slightest provocation, jumping on tables for a pounding tap dance, executing backflips, cartwheels, handsprings and somersaults as if it was as natural as waltzing. And all done with an infectious exuberance. They seem to be having a good time and likely you will, too.
Besides the aural problem, this crowd-pleasing show still is nakedly manipulative with a by-the-numbers committee-manufactured feel. It is undeniably entertaining for audiences of all ages, but there is rarely a moving or genuine moment in the entire show.
But the primary virtue of Newsies (sorry, Disney Newsies, not even Disney’s Newsies) is Christopher Gattelli’s joyous Tony-winning choreography as executed by a reasonably large cast who remain pretty sharp since the tour began last fall.
The cast of ragamuffins with smudged cheeks is serviceable including Dan DeLuca as the adorably pugnacious street kid and future AFL-CIO president Jack; Stephanie Styles as the adorably spunky Katherine, Broadway vet Steve Blanchard as the adorable greedhead Pulitzer, Zachary Sayle as the adorably loyal and woebegone Crutchie, Jacob Kemp as the adorably intelligent Davey, Angela Grovey who delivers a powerful belt as Medda Larkin, the adorable but inexplicably African-American vaudeville entertainer who owns her own theater. And then there are the other adorable urchins whose adorable character names include Mush, Romeo, Elmer, Finch and Race as in racetrack as opposed to race relations.
The intriguing set design by Tobin Ost married to lighting by Jeff Croiter focused on three three-story tall towers that looked like a cross of Erector set trestles, a jungle gym of fire escapes, the set for Hollywood Squares and the rabbit warren of crew quarters from the sci-fi film Outland. .. Begrudging credit is due original director Jeff Calhoun for imaginatively using the edifice so well in his staging.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Christopher Gattelli won the Tony Award for his memorable high-flying, athletic Newsies choreography. And those emotionally expressive, thrilling routines are the very best thing about what is otherwise a mixed bag of a show.
The touring production is well sung, enthusiastically acted, brilliantly danced, impressively designed. Plenty of people who catch it this week will be thoroughly entertained.  But for others, Newsies will come across as more workmanlike and formulaic than inspired. The piece, efficiently directed by Jeff Calhoun, is very tween- and teen-friendly,
DeLuca and Styles are strong, charismatic leads. Styles invests Watch What Happens with multifaceted possibility, and the song later becomes an impressive quartet for Katherine, Jack, Les and Les’ older brother Davey (Jacob Kemp, a fine singer and appealing actor). DeLuca croons Santa Fe, Jack’s escapist anthem, and (with Styles) the power ballad duet Something To Believe In.
The show’s design centers on Tobin Ost’s movable “steel” towers and Sven Ortel’s projections, adapted for the tour by Daniel Brodie. The pricey 21st century technology evokes a bygone era... Yet though the production’s look and Jess Goldstein’s quaint costumes are striking, very little about the characters’ behavior (or language) suggests 1899.
But oh, can those newsboys dance.
Rod Stafford Hagwood wrote for the Sun-Sentinel:
…there is no doubt about it: The dancing is the star. Christopher Gattelli's choreography gives "Newsies" jolt after jolt of adrenaline and rush after rush of thrills. Terpsichorean feats of flips, twirls, handstands and cartwheels may seem merely athletic on the surface, and that would be enough. But the Tony-winning choreography reflects character growth. At the start, it's all roughed-up, flexed feet and bent legs. But as the show progresses, the dancers morph into something more refined and technically strong, with pointed feet and straighter arms.
Turn-of-the-century grit, grime and graft — as run through a Disney filter, at least — permeates the book by Harvey Fierstein and the songs vacillate between marchlike anthems and beaten-down ballads. They are all fine, and sung well.  But it's the dancing that touches the heart.
The national tour of Disney’s Newsies plays at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts through February 9, 2015.

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