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Review by Vince Mediaa

The Bankhead Theatre is energized this Summer season as the hit DISNEY’S NEWSIES is now on stage through July 31st. Winner of two 2012 Tonys for best score and choreography, this jumping romp is quite impressive. The 1992 film is not the most memorable Disney movie, but is highlighted with a cast of guys kicking and tumbling. The film featured a young Christian Bale with Robert Duvall and Ann-Margret. It did poorly at the box office, but has become a cult hit. The 2011 Broadway musical and cast emphasized the electrified dancing that helped the show become a sell out on tour and now on regional stages.

Director Carol Hovey says this musical is packed with high energy “Bringing NEWSIES to perform before you on stage and in person with this incredibly talented and dedicated cast, crew and staff has been a pleasure." Co Directed by the clever Brian Olkowski who also is stage manger, cast the NEWSIES with a mixed cast of guys and women. Many of the other local productions could not find guys as talented to play the news boys and filled out their dance team with girls.

Producer Kathleen Breedveld brought in the skilled Meghan Hornbacker, who also appears in the cast as a NEWSIE and Bowery Beauty. Hornbacker takes on the challenge of working with a young team of 22 dancers. The cast has nothing but praise for her and the intense workouts she spent with this terrific company. This musical is designed to feature the dance ensemble as the stars of the show.

Hornbacker's choreography did just that by showcasing the young hoofers with a multitude of dance disciplines and acrobatics. Featuring the high kicking energy of Leo Diaz, Elijah and Eric Maravilla, Ryan Ducker, Osvaldo Mora, Mikayla Freeman, Jonny Banuelos, Tori Speed, Charlie Reyes, Arriana Glenn, Hakili Smith, Emmily Kessel, Emma Curtin, Emma Sundstrom, Gabby Blackhurst, Emily Couch, Charlotte Curtin, Caydence Johnson, Rachelle King, Miles Vetrovec, and Eric Feinstein.

Most of the show's big numbers are a banner of defiance. Alan Menken’s music and Jack Feldman’s lyrics create instant classics like "King of New York" and "Seize the Day." Harvey Fierstein, who wrote the book to the musical, made this a non-stop power house dance event while including important history lessons that are applicable to many modern day activist movements.

The story is based on the actual “Newsboy Strike of 1899,” a two-week work stoppage against venal Joseph Pulitzer, played by the polished TVR vet Matthew Kelly. The boys go on strike when Pulitzer unfairly raises the price of "papes.” They must battle scabs, crooked officials, business types and fearsome strike breakers carrying weapons in an attempt to get their fair prices back. The newsies’ problem is not resolved until Teddy Roosevelt, played by the dapper Gary Foley, steps up to the “malefactors of great wealth” and offers a “square deal.”

This cast is impressive the stellar Tommy Lassiter is passionate in the role of Jack Kelly, the leader of the Newsies. He immediately shows off his dynamite voice by opening the story with “Santa Fe,” where he shares his dreams of escaping the big city with his endearing, handicapped companion, Crutchie, played by the marvelous Daniel Brown.

Alongside Lassiter and Brown is a cast of newsboys who bring a powerful energy as they are “Carrying the Banner.” The ensemble of Newsies are headed by the enthusiastic Elijah Maravilla, who plays the cigar smoking Race, and opens the second act with “King of New York,” the show’s tap number anthem. Davey and his brother Les are played by the standout Kyle Herera and the young Keenan Moran who both bring the show that Disney charm.

Lassiter as the 17 year old Jack Kelly establishes himself as a likable, sensitive leader. At one of the rousing meetings Jack makes it clear that "All we ask for is a square deal. For the sake of all the kids in every sweatshop, factory and slaughterhouse in this town, I beg you, throw down your papes and join the strike."

Lassiter is a good romantic match for the superb Melissa Momboisse who reprises her role as the reporter Katherine with stunning class. Momboisse has played this role a few times on Bay Area stages and has the Kathern Plumber role perfected. Her show stopping solo “Watch What Happens” is exceptional and sets up the love interest with the two bubbling leads. Their duet “Something to Believe In” is marvelous, Momboisse and Lassiter are dazzling as the two romantic leads.

Herrera is solid as Davey, the new boy in town, who helps Jack with the strike. He is perfect next to the youngest member of the cast, Moran who plays Davey’s 10 year old brother Les. Itzkovitz is seen dancing as keen as the older boys and stops the show with his many one liners, such as “buy a pape from a poor orphan boy”. Herrera’s confidence as Davey continues to grow in “The World Will Know,” as the young Keenan Moran continues to charm everyone he meets.

The powerful Ashley Forney sang her heart out as Medda Larkin the vaudeville star, owner of the theater who helps Jack when he is on the run from the feds. Forney’s solo “That's Rich” features her sexy Bowery Beauties; Heather Warren, Rachelle King, and of course Megan Hornbacker who catch everyone’s eyes in “Don’t Come a Knocking”. The set by design by Thomas Curtin opens for the Bowery stage and makes the perfect frame for Kat and Jack to meet.

Brown as Crutchie steals the show with his clever, resourceful body language for the broken youth. Despite being on a crutch the entire show, he never skipped a beat. Brown has an emotional solo “Letter from the Refuge,” a new song that was added specifically for the national tour version of the musical.

Directors Hovey and Olkowski kept the show moving and created a strong ‘Davey and Goliath’ dynamic that does not deviate for a moment. In fact, Pulitzer, played by the forceful Kelly, is the perfect villain who stands his ground until he is eventually tamed by Jack with the help of the newsies and Teddy Roosevelt. Historically Pulitzer fought for the rights of children but in this Disney version he is the best bully.

The adult cast are all splendid in the many roles they played. High praise goes to Joe Saam, Mike Freeman, Keira Weir, and the frisky Rachelle King who doubles as Hannah, Pulitzer’s secretary. The accomplished Jon Hovey plays the Mayor of New York and that dapper Gary Foley saves the day as Teddy Roosvelt. Music director Sierra Dee Rankin worked with pre-recorded music that at times overpowered the cast on opening night yet the diverse cast showed off their strong voices. The Bankhead theatre fills with the energy of this cast especially during the anthem “The World Will Know”.

The craft team are all pro’s - Patricia Kron-Pope’s costumes were vintage 1890’s as the boys were dressed in their rag dapper look of earth tones and city dirty clothes. The bags for papes fit each boy perfectly and their caps are keen. The adult cast are all on-point in their three piece vintage look. Jack cleans up well in the first and second act for his visits to Pulitzer’s office. Set designer Thomas Curtin designed a two level bowery with staircases. Stage managers AJ Amstrup and Austin Andrade move the large 35 member cast on off stage with ease.

The dance is upbeat and sizzling teched by sound designer Tony Mapes had to adapt to all the bumps and spins endured by Newsies physical movement. Director Hovey also created the lighting design and sets the mood perfectly as she had to capture both levels of this show. The props by Kathleen Breedveld, Joan Brown, MaryKay Stevenson included piles of papers, a classic printing press, wagons, and news bags for the guys and a classic typewriter for Katherine.

NEWSIES is a celebration of the power of young voices changing history; it is part history lesson, part fable and part love story. The show is recognizable for being an awesome dance show but it also has heart and will make you stand and cheer for these heroes. This is a great show for your family and it is sure to inspire kids to grab a paper, read the news, and maybe even dance with it. The opening night audience were on their feet for a well deserved standing ovation. Tri Valley Rep will announce their exciting new 2023 season this fall. In the meantime “Seize the Day” and join the strike and make NEWSIES your Summer musical must see.

Tri Valley Rep Presents

Disney’s NEWSIES

The Musical

Book by Harvey Fierstein.

Music by Alan Menken. Lyrics by Jack Feldman

Directed by Carol Hovey

and Brian Olkowski

Music Director sierra Dee Rankin

Choreographed by Megan Hornbacker

Must close July 31st

Two hours 30 min with one intermission

Bankhead Arts Center

2400 First St

Livermore Ca


Photos by Ben Krantz and Bob Bronzan



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