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Review: 'Newsies' steps up the spectacular

Joey Barreiro and the cast of "Newsies."
Photo credit:
emilyreade.com

There are only a few Broadway musicals that feel like a rollercoaster ride through a discotheque, and Disney’s “Newsies” may be the “E” ticket in your coupon book.

Don’t worry if you don’t get that reference, just know that when you go see this show (and I suggest you do) that it is a powerhouse of adrenaline which serves as the ink to the prescription bottle storyline.

Newsies are the urban urchins who sell papers (papes) on the streets of New York in the late 1800’s. They spend their dimes on the morning edition and depending on the headline can make a paltry living at best. If the  headline is not good, the less copies get sold.

So when the evil publisher Joseph Pulitzer decides to raise the cost of his daily during a rather slow news month, the elected leader of the band, Jack Kelly, gets an idea to strike. If his team of unlucky vagabonds aren’t on the streets selling papers Pulitzer doesn’t rake in the profits; nobody gets paid. 

Such is the set-up to the mega produced “Newsies,” an adaptation to the 1992 Disney film of the same name.

This dance-tastic and industrious musical feels like an unharnessed trip through Broadwayworld.

It's all here in a beautiful Disney package: the singing, the sets, the romance and of course the dancing.

The huge ensemble make mincemeat of the stage with production numbers filled with enough energy to raise Gene Kelly from the dead.

Nothing can really prepare you for “The World Will Know” number near the end of the first act. This is such a gloriously choreographed piece, when it was done the cast paused to receive their ovation, but the audience was too stunned to stand.

“Newsies” is a show funded by The Mouse, however it’s not your typical animatronic character collage.

The lead played by Joey Barreiro probably isn’t getting paid enough by Disney. He’s a quadruple threat: he’s extremely handsome, he can sing, dance and best of all he can act. These qualities seem to transfer from his character to the stage from which his co-stars feed.

Katherine was played by Becca Petersen in my showing; this understudy is understated,  but is sure to have a  bright future ahead of her. I cannot attest to the billed actress playing Katherine on this tour, Morgan Keene, but if she shares the same drive and charisma as Petersen, there should be no problems. 

Petersen and Barreiro infused the story with a genuine chemistry that seemed all too real.

Her “Watch What Happens” solo is a well-researched, funny and empathetic piece about a writer being distracted by too many things at once to write her journalistic magnum opus. Take it from me, this is a very real occupational hazard. 

Petersen, like Barreiro, challenges herself, fleshing out her character to include nuanced tones and taking idiosyncratic liberties with Katherine. This Disney “princess” doesn’t make suffrage sufferable.

 It wouldn’t be fair to only give Barreiro and Keene all of the credit. The huge cast has their own unique talents to share.

Aisha De Haas as theatre owner Medda Larkin is the mama to the masses and her “That’s Rich” cabaret number is a wonderful treat both vocally and comically.

Steve Blanchard plays raging publishing mogul Joseph Pulitzer with typical stage direction, but enough savvy to play against the worthy Barreiro.

The other star of the show are the stage and set designs by Tobin Ost.

The four story high movable platforms take you from interiors to exteriors in a matter of seconds. It’s scenery in flux, that is and of itself a choreographed masterwork.

“Newsies” may have a commercial Disney potboiling storyline about the down-trodden rising up above the powers that be, but this musical production and its cast will take you from the frying pan into the fire with scalding heat left on stage. The friction of feet and talent put forth by the entire cast makes for a highly-entertaining night at the theater. 

 The details

Disney's "Newsies" plays through June 5, 2016 at the Civic Theatre , 1100 3rd Ave, San Diego, CA 92101 (619) 570-1100

 Showtimes are: Tuesday and Wednesday at 7 pm; Thursday and Friday at  7:30 pm; Saturday at 2 pm and 7:30 pm; Sunday at 1 pm and 6 30 pm.

For more information on Broadway San Diego click HERE.