FARMINGTON — We are going to carry the banner once again here in northern Utah, with another production of Utah opening, this time with Farmington City’s production that they have mounted for their summer musical. By now we know the story well, and we just need to see what may be done differently by the newsboys (or girls) in the Farmington part of Davis County.
Directed by Amy Turner, this production first stood out for its set design by Trevor Wirth and Julie Olsen with projection design by Spencer Bawden. One plus of seeing Newsies so many times in a row is that you can start to catch some of the ways that productions can be creative with their sets. Farmington has a small stage in their community center, but they used it quite well, choosing a few big pieces like the desk for Pulitzer and the old printing press, and then opting for small projections and a wonderfully painted backdrop of the Brooklyn Bridge and NYC Skyline.
Speaking of Brooklyn, I have to give a shout out to this production’s choice of one of the great reveals, the entrance of the Brooklyn Newsies. Since the movie version in the 1990s, their entrance has been a favorite of the fans: Spot Conlin, played in this production by Isaac Nelson, and his gang. I thought I had seen all the clever ways to portray the Brooklyn gang, but Turner may have taken the trophy, at least for adorableness. I do not want to spoil it, but I will say it did melt my heart a little.
Another show stopping moment was by the character of Davey, played by Cooper Sanders, who spent a bit of the beginning of the show being underrated, which is true to the character of Davey. It reminded me of a friend of mine in junior high who was also underrated, until one day at a school assembly he sang a solo as part of a show choir medley, and his voice was so clear and perfect that the entire school took a collective gasp (love you Kevin!). I felt the audience do the same thing when Sanders started singing, “Seize the Day.” No more could Davey be underestimated as a performer or a character. Both men are a force to be recognized and reckoned with.
As for production value, the best number in the show was the entr’acte with, “I’m the King of New York.” Choreographer Sasha Nugter did the best tap dance number of all three Newsies that I have seen, and I was quite impressed with the level of tapping skill that I saw on stage, especially with who I can only assume are sisters, Mackenzie Turner as Katherine Plumber, Kayley Turner as Finch, and Kelsey Turner as Albert. I really appreciate a good tap number and was quite sad that I did not get to see more tapping as I watched all the skill shown on the stage during that performance.
There were a few mishaps during the show, but I was impressed with how much grace they were handled with, especially when part of the stage literally broke right during the middle of a song. I was really glad none of the players were hurt, and impressed at how everyone was cautious to dance around it through the rest of the show, as it gave me a little anxiety to watch it for the full first act.
Garrett Frazier as Jack was spot on with his singing and his attitude, and I was really impressed with Frazier as Jack’s connection and empathy with Crutchie, played by Dallin Willis, a relationship I always enjoy. Frazier as Jack’s chemistry with Mackenzie Turner as Katherine Plumber was fantastic, and Mackenzie Turner shined in her iconic number, “Watch What Happens,” as well as with her dancing.
However, Frazier’s accent felt almost like he was trying too hard, and I wanted him to relax it just a little. I also never want to comment on a person being too short, because I myself am short and feel a strong power to the short people, but with Les, played by Kyler Johnson, perhaps being too tall, it made it hard to believe he was convincing people he was young and getting people to buy his papers just for his age. I do accept this tallness could have been an unexpected growth spurt.
I am reminded again that Newsies overall is an ensemble number and really is about the youth in the ensemble. I appreciated the line by Roosevelt, played by Kurt Beckstrom, at the end of the show. “There comes a time when the older generation needs to step aside and let the younger generation take charge,” a truth found in theatre as well.