Newsies! A fabulous dance vehicle at MSMT

Posted Thursday, August 10, 2017 in Culture

Newsies! A fabulous dance vehicle at MSMT

Dancers in Newsies.  Photo by Roger Duncan

by Gina Hamilton

This season has been great, generally speaking, for lovers of musical theater, such as this reviewer, who loves, loves, loves dance, and especially athletic male ensemble dancing.

Guys and Dolls and Grease were great. But Newsies was the piece de resistance for this form of dance.

For those unfamiliar with the story, Newsies is loosely based on a newsboy strike that occurred in New York in 1899, when major publishers, such as Joseph Pulitzer's New York World, and William Randolph Hearst's New York Morning Journal, attempted to boost their bottom lines by charging the newsboys more per paper, cutting their already small income in half. In history, the strike lasted two weeks, and cut the papers' circulation by more than half.

In the Disney story, the main character, Jack Kelly (Matt Farcher), faced with the hit to his livelihood, declares a strike and forms a union, and is encouraged by young female reporter Katherine (Kate Fahrner) who happens to be Pulitzer's (Brian Sutherland) daughter in disguise. His fellow newsies, Crutchie (Blake Stadnik), Davey (Justin Schuman), and Les (Timothy Woodward, Jr.) and a host of other boys stand up for their rights in a stirring call to comraderie and union.

Pulitzer attempts to strike back, offering Kelly enough money to leave town without arresting him, while offering to release Crutchie, who had been sent to a horrific child's prison called "The Refuge". In a moment of weakness, Kelly agrees, but the power of the union shouts him down during a rally, and with the help of Katherine, the group of boys prints their own paper, in the basement of Pulitzer's World, with the help of the disillusioned children of other paper magnates as well.

With the strike killing Pulitzer's bottom line, he finally capitulates. He also looks at Kelly's artistic ability and offers him a job working on the paper, drawing cartoons for the editorial page.

The dance, however, is what makes Newsies so very special. Marc Robin's exciting, athletic choreography, in the smallish main stage space, was extraordinary and almost physically impossible. Moving the dancers up vertically was one solution to the space problem, but timing was everything and that the flying male dancers managed to perform strongly and brilliantly without knocking one another into the pit was due to dance captain Cody Smith's skill.

Get tickets and see Newsies before it's gone (August 26 is the last performance). If you love dance as much as I do, you will be delighted.

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