SEIZE THE DAY AS THESE NEWSIES MAKE HEADLINES AND BRINGS TO SAN JOSE “THE KING OF NEW YORK”,
ITS IN TOWN ONLY FOR A SHORT TIME
CMT continues their impressive 50th season with 30 young triple threats in the Bay Area’s first regional production of NEWSIES - now on stage only through Dec 10th. Winner of two 2012 Tonys for best score and choreography, the jumping romp called NEWSIES is impressive. Disney who has staged The Lion King, Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin continues their Broadway success with this once Disney cult film NEWSIES. The 1992 film didn’t do that well but the cast of guys kicking and jumping was always the highlight - starring Christian Bale, Robert Duvall and Ann-Margret, it did poorly at the box office, but it has become something of a cult hit. The emphasis for the 2012 musical and cast of the national tour was all about the dance. I have always speculated that a show with a huge ballet dance would not do well on Regional stages, but I was proven wrong watching the excellent CMT Production.
Staged by CMT’s Artistic Director Kevin R. Hauge, he says “CMT has the great fortune to present one of the first West Coast productions of NEWSIES, our 50th anniversary (and) , hot off the presses, we jump into the future with the first fresh title of our sixth decade. Lets Seize the Day.” Hauge also mentioned at the opening night preshow that his cast features many current and CMT alum which gives this production a rich texture from other Children Theatre companies I have seen. The boys in the cast were also excited to score as their choreographer Scott Shedenhelm a member of the original cast back at Paper Mill’s first pre Broadway Production. Shedenhelm is the newest member of the CMT creative team and what better way to bring his talent to the Montgomery Stage as he choreographs the high flying energy of the boys in NEWSIES.
This is a musical where the young male ensemble are the star along with the choreographer, Shedenhelm, who turned the dance numbers into a showcase for young dancers, who showed skills in a multitude of dance disciplines and gymnastics movements like cartwheels and handstands. Most of the show's big numbers are a banner of defiance. Music by Alan Menken and lyrics Jack Feldman with their classics "King of New York" and "Seize the Day." And Harvey Fierstein, who wrote the book to the musical made this a non stop power house dance event with an important history lesson.
The story is roughly based on the actual “Newsboy Strike of 1899,” a two-week work stoppage against venal Joseph Pulitzer played by the marvelous Michael Mulcahy. As the boys go on strike when the price of "papes" - goes up unfairly. They must battle scabs, crooked officials, business types like Pulitzer and fearsome strike breakers carrying weapons. William Randolph Hearst, and other “malefactors of great wealth,” a phrase coined by Teddy Roosevelt played by the dapper Joe Saam, a hero in this show. All the news boys want is what Roosevelt offers a “square deal.” The musical, like a pape, is black and white newsprint. The homeless newsies, most orphans though are all first-class. The businessmen and politicians, with the exception of a very good Roosevelt, are fat cut outs to make the boys lives miserable. The young teens worked in terrible, unsafe conditions that cry out for unionization.
The set is the focal point of this production and set designer Kimberly Powers brings a turn-of-the-century New York scenery to the small Montgomery Theatre stage using a two story sets with rich risers on wheels the cast easily dance around and glides into place.
The cast is impressive featuring local favorite Sean Okuniewicz who is a brillaint as Jack Kelly the leader of the Newsies, he opens the story with “Santa Fe” his dream for the future. Alongside him is the likeable Ryder Kole Emerson as the endearing disabled kid Crutchie. The cast of boys are introduced in the first of many rousing dance numbers “Carry the Banner” that sets the pace of this two and half hour musical.
Okuniewicz does not overdo it as 17 year old Jack Kelly, settling for being a likable, sensitive leader "All we ask is a square deal," says Jack at one rousing meetings "For the sake of all the kids in every sweatshop, factory and slaughterhouse in this town, I beg you, throw down your papers and join the strike." The tall Okuniewicz is a good romantic match for Lindsey Anderson who plays the reporter Katherine with stunning class. Anderson’s solo “Watch What Happens” is pitch perfect and sets up the love interest with the two bubbling leads.
Ryan Kain, is somewhat likable as Davey, the new boy in town who helps Jack with the strike. Kain has his head down for most of the first act but he brings his best to the song “The World Will Know” featuring the Newsies and Dave’s little brother Les played by the impressive Tristan Howard who charms everyone he meets. Jennifer Bradford did her best as Medda Larkin the vaudeville star, owner of the theater and who helps Jack when he is on the run from the feds. Bradford struggles with her solo “That's Rich”, but her Bowery Beauties; Davelyn Couch and Katarina Kelly are eye catching in “Don’t Come a Knocking”. I was impressed that one of the boys was cast as one of the show cabaret dancers you see in the dressing room opening.
Young Emerson as Crutchie stole the show in the first act with his clever dance and body language for the broken youth, never skipped a beat. Emerson opens the second act with a new song “Letter from the Refuge” created for Crutchie for the national tour version of the musical. Director Hauge kept the show moving and creates good and evil from the start and never deviates for a moment. Pulitzer is the perfect villain until Jack tames him. Historically Pulitzer fought for the rights of children but this Disney version still works well to keep the banner anthem songs in the book very spirited.
The boys in the show include; Ethan Dea, Joey Kipp, Derrick Contreras, Joshua Lau, John Joseph Dipple, Ethan Dea, Ryan Doyle, Neil Rushnock, Jennifer Gorgulho, Jake Chen, Bryce Goodman-Orcutt, Katarina Kelly, Juan Angel Johnston-Chavez, Armand Akbari, David Hurley and the high stepping John Joseph Dippel. Each Newsie proves their dance skills in the many solo’s choreographer Shedenhelm created for the boys. The awesome flips, jumps and ballet marvels are highlighted in the show stopping dance number “Seize the Day” and “The World will Know”. Shedenhelm combines ballet with bold athletic moves. In one sequence, the performers dance on newspapers, a neat trick that takes advantage of paper's inherent slick qualities.
The adult cast are all splendid in the many parts they play including; Tarif Pappu, Ted Sclavos, Ed Sengstack, Andy Rotchadl, Mitchell Mosley, JP Micallef, John G Bridges, Jason Mooney, and the frisky Kristen Hermosillo as Hannah, Pulitzer’s secretary. Joe Saam plays a very convincing Governor Roosevelt. Music director Amie Jan has a full throttle sixteen piece orchestra that mixed well with the mostly male cast and their strong voices. Vocal Director Linda Middlebusher kept the cast in perfect harmony keeping those bronx New York accents were correct.
The craft team for CMT are all pro’s - Sonia Rossi’s costumes were vintage 1890’s and the boys with their rag dapper look of earth tones and city dirty clothes. The adult cast are all on-point in their three piece vintage look. I know the boys needed that street look but I found the Kyra Kazantzis make up of dirty faces a bit much. Jack cleans up well in the first and second act for his visits to the office, but not his face. Yet the after fight look and bruises on the leads mug are chilling. The wigs on the women all work well especially of club singer Medda. Jeffrey Small’s lighting design has to capture both levels of this show as much of it takes place on the upper levels of the rafters and it was moody perfect. The dance so upbeat and sizzling, this means John Diloreto’s sound design had to live with the bumps of the boys dancing. The mix between the pit and cast was grand.
For a show with this bright of a cast the stage management team under Eric Dippel’s direction was precise and every actor seemed to hit their mark. Video projections by Josh Miyaji were all very clever especially watching Jack draw his sketches and Kate type her news story projects on the framed windows and walls. The props by Laura Mosley and Sandra Torchia included piles of papers, wagons and news bags for the guys. Publitzers office was all late 1800’s with a desk that turns into a barber chair with ease.
Photos by Leandra Saenz
NEWSIES will likely now make an easy transition to college and high school auditoriums across the country. Part history lesson, part fable and part love story, it also is an awesome dance show. Hopefully, by making newsies heroic, it'll also revive the business of "papes". This is great show for your family and its sure to inspire kids to grab a paper and just see what reading a newspaper is all about. Next up at CMT is ONCE UPON A MATTRESS presented by the “Rising Stars” company, then THE WHO’S TOMMY opens spring 2018 presented by the “Mainstage”. In the meantime make NEWSIES your Holiday must see.
CMT 50th Season Presents
Book by Harvey Fierstein. Music by Alan Menken. Lyrics by Jack Feldman.
Directed by Kevin R Hauge,
Music Director Amie Jan
Choreographed by Scott Shedenhelm
Must close Dec 10th
The Montgomery Theatre
271 S Market St, San Jose, CA 95113
Two 2 hours, 30 minutes with intermission
Photos by Leandra Saenz
THE CAST PERFORMS AT THE SAN JOSE HOLIDAY FAIR
THE CAST OF NEWSIES
HISTORIC PICS FROM THE BOYS STRIKE
In 1899, the streets of New York City were filled with the voices of the Newsboys. Back then, newspapers were the only types of media in the city. They were the only ways to get information about what was going on in the world. There were two major newspapers sold, 'The New York World' and 'The New York Journal'. These were owned by the two most powerful men in the city of New York, Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst.