The power of the press meets high kicks in Newsies at TUTS

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Newsies | Theatre Under the Stars | Malkin Bowl, Stanley Park | July 6 – August 17, 2019

A classic underdog story about the power of the press, this musical is full of rousing songs, unlikely triumphs, and a love story. Julie Tomaino’s choreography brings it all together in a high-energy frenzy of high kicks and higher jumps. The newsies take New York City by storm and stand up against the most powerful man in town, publisher Joseph Pulitzer.

“The sun is up and the headline stinks,” says Jack Kelly (Adam Charles). He’s a leader among the boys who sell “papes” on the street of New York in 1899. When Pulitzer raises the price they have to pay for papers, he organizes a strike and the rest of the newsies, most of whom are very young and many of whom are orphans, join him in fighting for fair wages.

Davey (Daniel Curalli) and his little brother Les (Jordyn Bennett) are taken under Jack’s wing and taught how to succeed on the mean streets of New York. They soon become a tightly knit team and Davey helps with the strike. All three of them impressed in numbers such as “King of New York,” which included some marvellous tap dancing. Bennett as Les was so assured, with a clear, confident voice.

Another standout was Katherine (Julia Ullrich), a reporter who meets Jack when she covers the strike. The two fall in love, but complications arise when Jack finds out she’s Pulitzer’s daughter. Ullrich’s poised, assertive attitude and strong vocals stood out the most memorable song of the show: “Watch What Happens,” as she sits at her typewriter struggling to write her story. “All I know is I don't know what to write or the right way to write it,” she laments.

Jack’s other friend, Crutchie (Cole Smuland), gave an inspiring performance considering that he had to limp around on one leg and a crutch for the entire show.  His solo “Letter from the Refuge” dragged a bit, but his interactions with the other boys and his ability to dance around on a crutch were impressive.

In their romantic duet, “Something to Believe In,” Jack’s vocal talents didn’t quite match Katherine’s, but the two had great chemistry atop the striking rooftop and staircase sets by Francesca Albertazzi. Christina Sinosich’s costumes, complete with swinging paperboy bags, gave each boy a unique look amidst a stage full of newsies.

As the boys print their rally flyers on an old press in Pulitzer’s basement, we’re prompted to think about the power of print and the relative ease we now have in publishing and disseminating information. No longer do we have to rely on publishing moguls to share our opinion or spread the news, and the newsies were one part of an early labour movement that benefitted workers everywhere with fairer wages and better working conditions.

With its combination of an inspiring story, triumphant songs, talented cast and memorable ensemble dances that finish with a full-cast finale of awesome leaps and bounds, Newsies is one of the best shows I’ve seen at TUTS.

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