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Let’s table the palaver and get down to business, to quote one of the characters.
Newsies the Musical — based on the so-so 1992 movie about striking newsboys — is a slick, entertaining show that’s sort of like Annie meets Billy Elliot.
As in the movie, the boys are selling their “papes” (i.e., newspapers) in 1899 when Joseph Pulitzer decides to up the distribution price.
They strike, fight back, and do pretty well, but not without struggle — and lots of singing and dancing.
The show (which originated at Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse last year) is not exactly profound, and it’s somewhat mechanical in that it’s very dialogue-song/dialogue-song.
But it represents the height of Broadway professionalism, boasting a diverse score by Alan Menken and Jack Feldman, a tight book by Harvey Fierstein, sumptuous sets by Tobin Ost, and vigorous staging by director Jeff Calhoun and choreographer Christopher Gattelli.
It’s one big, well-oiled machine — literally, in the case of the moving risers — and several times, it erupts into leaping and spinning that has the audience catching its breath.
As the leader of the strikers, Jeremy Jordan is engaging, with a slightly dangerous edge giving his charisma extra oomph and a vulnerability that makes his doubts about continuing the newsies’ battle believable.
(His ballad “Santa Fe” could be this year’s answer to Book of Mormon‘s ode to “Salt Lake City,” though it’s not at all satirical.)
There’s also a disabled newsie named “Crutchie” (Andrew Keenan-Bolger), who’s beaten and disappears, the second act strangely opening with a happy, bouncy group number.
Of course there’s also a love interest (Kara Lindsay), but she’s got a little secret — one that’s easily resolved for plot purposes.
And just as FDR helped Annie, his fifth cousin Teddy Roosevelt waddles in to Newsies, as everyone spits on their hands and shakes, while using thick New Yawk accents.
Like I said, it’s not deep — and it sort of just ends — but it’s zippy fun, and it’s so expertly done, I might even write about it in the pape, too.
Extra! Extra! Newsies is a hit.