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NEWSIES rocks the Orpheum in San Francisco

Dan DeLuca (Jack Kelly) (center) and the original North American Tour company of NEWSIES. ©Disney.

NEWSIES: Musical. Book by Harvey Fierstein. Music by Alan Menken. Lyrics by Jack Feldman. Directed by Jeff Calhoun.  Disney Theatrical Productions, SHN Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market St., San Francisco. 888-746-1799 or February 18 – March 15, 2015

NEWSIES rocks the Orpheum in San Francisco Rating: ★★★★★

If you are looking for a musical evening of fun, dancing, singing with a feel-good ending and a smidgen of social consciousness get thee hence to the Orpheum Theatre to see the sparkling, energetic Newsies.  Actually, it would be more than a smidgen of social consciousness since the plot of Newsies revolves around the New York City Newspaper delivery boys’ strike of 1899.

During the 1890s newspaper delivery was mainly accomplished by young boys (girls?) who paid 50 cents for 20 or so newspapers and then hawked them on the streets. In 1899, the city newspaper magnets, led by Joseph Pulitzer owner of “The New York World” bumped the price up to 60 cents (a 20% increase!) and no refund for unsold papers. The “Newsies” as they were called organized a rag-tag ‘union’ and went on strike, paralyzing the city. Those are, or as close to, the “bare-facts” in the musical.

The 1992 Disney movie “Newsies” was a commercial and critical flop even though Christian Bales played the lead of Jack Kelley the titular leader of the group. That movie now has cult status. The movie-turned-musical had its premier run at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey. By that time Alan Menken (music), Jack Feldman (lyrics) and Harvey Fierstein (book) were aboard and when it opened on Broadway in 2012 it won two Tony Awards and ran for two years. The road show of Newsies that opened last night at the Orpheum is Broadway quality all the way.

The show opens with the youthful, attractive, energetic ensemble performing dances on the stage apron and on three revolving metal frameworks with spectacular projected visuals of scenes from old New York. It wisely ends with a curtain call of the same caliber receiving a standing ovation.

Jack Kelley (a marvelous Dan DeLuca) is a 17-year-old runaway from a hell-hole called the “ Refuge” and thus is wanted by the police. He gets help from no-last-name Katherine (gorgeous dulcet voiced Stephanie Styles) a budding reporter to expose the inequities of the time in general and of the Newies in particular. They unite all the boroughs including the reticent Brooklyn boys. Now we have a classic pot-boiler story of boy-meets-girl from the upper class uniting to resolve worker injustice.

Pot-boiler be damned. The acrobatic staging by Jeff Calhoun keeps the action nonstop on Tobin Ost’s constantly moving set with Sven Orel’s projection adding a touch of class to the fine acting, singing and dancing of the cast.

The key roles of the youngsters include Zachary Sayle as the optimistic and limping Crutchie who adds a touch of pathos to the evening. Jacob Kemp as Davey, the intellect advising much need moderation does a great job morphing from a reluctant by-stander to able leader.  Audience favorite was nine-year-old Anthony Rosenthal (alternating with Vincent Crocilla) as Davey’s younger brother steals a few scenes. Picking out separate great performances by the fantastic ensemble is impossible as they propel themselves into all forms of athletic dancing/ballet movements.

 The adults hold their own and with full-bodied Angela Grovey as chanteuse Medda bringing the house down with “That’s Rich” in act one. Steve Blanchard handles the unenviable role of Joseph Pulitzer with authority and will have you wanting to give him a melodramatic boo!

You will not be leaving the theater humming any of the songs but they all are appropriate for a feel-good musical and may even want you desiring to join Jack on a trip to “Santa Fe.”

Running time 2 hours and 20 minutes with intermission. Highly recommended.

CAST STARRING: Dan Deluca (Jack Kelly); Steve Blanchard (Joseph Pulitzer); Stephanie Styles, (Katherine); Angela Grovey, (Medda Larkin); Jacob Kemp (Davey); Zachary Sayle, (Crutchie); Vincent Crocilla & Anthony Rosenthal (Les).

ENSEMBLE: Mark Aldrich, Josh Assor,evan Aijtio,bill Bateman,joshua Burrage,  Kevin Carolan,demarius Copes, Benjamin Cook, Julian Deguzman, Nico Dejesus,  Sky Flaherty, Michael Gorman, Jon Hacker,jeff Heimbrock, Stephen Hernandez,meredith Inglesby,molly Jobe, James Judy, Eric Jon Mahlum Michael Ryan,jordan Samuels, Jack Sippel, Melissa Steadman Hart, Andrew Wilson, Chaz Wolcott

ARTISTIC STAFF: Director, Jeff Calhoun; Music, Alan Menken; Lyrics, Jack Feldman; Book, Harvey Fierstein; based on the Disney film written by Bob Tzudiker and Noni White; Set designer, Tobin Ost; Costume designer, Jess Goldstein; Lighting designer: Jeff Croiter; Sound designer,  Ken Travis; Projection designer,  Sven Ortel (Adaptation by Daniel Brodie);

Kedar K. Adour, MD

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