By Cassie Call
The touring company of Disney’s “Newsies” performed a series of shows between Oct. 11 and Oct. 17 at Proctors Theatre.
This production came to Schenectady straight from Broadway, where it closed Aug. 24, after 1,005 performances.
Captivating audiences with Christopher Gattelli’s incredible choreography and Alan Menken’s upbeat songs, Disney’s “Newsies” reflects a true story of solidarity in the face of hardship.
Last Sunday’s performance at Proctors Theatre was energetic, powerful and nothing less than brilliant.
This Tony Award-winning musical follows the orphaned paperboy Jack Kelly, circa 1899 in New York City.
Together with his band of “newsies,” as they call themselves, he finds friendship and strength as they stand up to two of the most prominent men in New York.
The show opens to a gliding violin melody as we see Jack (Dan DeLuca) and his friend Crutchie (Zachary Sayle) coming up the fire escape to a rooftop — Jack’s makeshift home.
The stunning set, designed by Tobin Ost, also includes a scattered array of clotheslines that shift onstage from the wings, and a beautiful New York skyline on the backdrop, complete with faded blue sky, glowing sun and distant buildings in silhouette.
As Jack dreams of escaping his rough city life to go out west, they sing the opening song, “Santa Fe (Prologue).” Both DeLuca and Sayle have very strong voices, which combine in chills-inducing harmony.
Creating a visual of the Santa Fe Jack dreams of, the sky then fades to a flaming orange as the buildings morph into a mountain range.
Unlike the big, flashy opening numbers that are overdone in many musicals, this one is a touching, beautiful way to begin.
The rest of the newsies make their entrances in the song “Carrying the Banner,” which showcases the strong vocals, unbelievable dance skills and powerful energy of this talented ensemble.
Although some of the words were difficult to distinguish among all the harmony, the number was sung very well.
Utilizing the creative set once again, a major portion of this number is done in what looks like apartment blocks, formed by metal structures stacked three stories high and including winding staircases.
The set also rotates to show different angles and moves forward at one point to really bring the audience into the action.
The newsies are always moving; even when the attention is focused on only one or two characters, the rest of them look like they’re having their own little conversations, joking around as boys do, to create realistic background action.
They include Davey (Jacob Kemp) and his little brother Les (Anthony Rosenthal), who are the new boys on the job but are soon welcomed by Jack and his friends.
Ten-year-old Rosenthal does a great job portraying Les, with nice facial expressions and the true naïve confidence of a child.
Kemp is another standout, showing off his extremely powerful voice through his solo parts in “The World Will Know,” “Seize the Day” and a few other important songs throughout the show.
Although Jack sometimes pushes Davey to step up to lead, Davey proves to be an inspiring voice of hope for the newsies, even when Jack himself is ready to give up.
Added to Jack’s caring nature — always thinking for the safety of others — the dynamics between these two form the perfect team to lead the newsies.
When newspaper owner Joseph Pulitzer (Steve Blanchard) decides to raise the paper prices by 10 cents per bushel, meaning the newsies have to spend more to earn the same profit, Jack and his friends decide to go on strike to gain back what they deserve.
But there is a love story behind their fight. Along the way, Jack meets Katherine (Stephanie Styles), a journalist who becomes a huge help in the newsies’ struggle.
When he first meets her, she tells him to stop bothering her while she’s working, but Jack stays and begins to draw her profile.
As he draws, the backdrop transforms into the paper and his drawing gradually appears projected on screen, revealing his hidden talent for art.
In her soliloquy song, “Watch What Happens,” Katherine shows her fun, quirky personality as she talks to herself, which Styles portrays beautifully. This song also reveals Styles’ amazing singing voice, as well as the importance of women journalists at the turn of the century.
Other important songs include Jack’s solo rendition of “Santa Fe,” where he expresses his inner struggle between his dream of escaping the city and his strike there with the newsies. This is a stunning way to end before intermission, as DeLuca holds the beautiful, high final note of the song.
Act 2 opens with the high-energy tap-dancing number “King of New York,” as the newsies celebrate making the front page of the newspaper.
Jack and Katherine sing a lovely duet, “Something to Believe In,” although Styles’ voice did overpower DeLuca’s at times.
One of the last songs is “Once and For All,” in which newsies from all across New York City are united to print their own paper with Katherine’s stories.
It’s not as well known as the other songs, but it has a powerful beat and thrilling harmony that just might make it the most important song in the show.
It’s often hard to find talented male actors for theater productions, but “Newsies” doesn’t have that problem at all.
Almost every cast member is a triple threat — meaning they are all exceptional dancers, singers and actors.
If you get the chance to see Disney’s “Newsies,” seize the day — this is a show you don’t want to miss.