CENTERVILLE — Newsies is a popular show around these parts. It follows the story of the newsboys in 1899 that fought against the corporate giants who owned the newspapers and wanted to raise the prices to buy the papers wholesale. Based on the early 90s movie by the same name, the show opened on Broadway in 2012 and has been warming hearts all over the world ever since.
The set of the CenterPoint show, directed and designed by Jared Haddock and designed by Truxton Moulton, mirrored the original Broadway set, with scaffolding and moving parts to represent the buildings of early 1900s NYC. One element I found particular effective was that the crew were dressed up in costumes by costume design supervisor Tammis Boam, so that when the movement of the sets required the help of crew, the crew looked as though they were part of the show rather than a distraction, which was an excellent direction choice by Haddock. Other costume elements by Boam were also wonderful, especially the costume of Medda Larkin played by Angie Call. (Honestly, where can I buy that hat?) The newsies costumes are iconic, but it is not good if you get them wrong, especially because I saw a young girl in the audience dressed as a newsie complete with newsie teddy bear, and so it was good to see that her costume was reflected well on stage.
When I attend a show like Newsies, I expect to see great dancing, and choreographer Matthew Davies did not disappoint. I was reminded recently of how much of a dancer I am not, so I watched this ensemble with renewed enthusiasm. One thing that left me with a little disappointment was that there were less flips and tricks than I have seen in previous productions; however, the full cast was well in sync and highly entertaining. Added to the dance elements in impressive fashion was the lighting design by Graham Whipple, whose timing and synchronicity with the music were impeccable. Music director Tara Wardle also added by helping the ensemble create strong harmonies and lovely moments where the cast had complete unity in sound and blend.
Cast member Brandon Smith was a standout in his role as Crutchie. It is an endearing role, and Smith was able to play the role with a level of empathy and talent. Jordan Petersen as Katherine Plummer, the reporter role that was adapted for the stage version of this story, was a really strong part of this cast, and her main number, “Watch What Happens,” was done well, leading to the hope and optimism that the show embodies. The main newsie, Jack, played by Matt Taylor, had strong vocals and great chemistry as a best friend and brother figure to Crutchie and the rest of the newsies. Davey, played by Nick Crapo, as the brains of the operation, really shined in the famous number, “Seize the Day,” and young Les, played by Soren Ray, was completely charming.
One element that was slightly off putting was the issue of accents. As someone who lived in Brooklyn for four years, I do understand the fun of a Brooklyn and a New York accent, and when someone is trying too hard, it is just that, trying too hard. Newsies is an iconic New York show, and the accents are important, but from the opening announcement, rather than the familiar accent that I love, I felt slightly annoyed at the accents that were being portrayed.
The adults in the cast were all impressive, with Teddy Roosevelt played by Rob Severinsen impressing me the most. Severinsen as Roosevelt looked exactly like all the pictures of Roosevelt that I have ever seen, which is likely a praise to the costume designer and makeup and anyone else who worked to make the imagery of this show complete.
If you are a fan of Newsies, this production will not disappoint. It has all the elements expected when coming to see the show. If you have never seen a production of Newsies, this production is a fantastic introduction.