HURRICANE — Bring together a talented cast of singer and dancers (with energy as high as their toe-touches and vocal prowess soaring even higher than that) and, as they say in Hurricane Theatrical’s production of Newsies, “Watch What Happens.” What happens is everything an audience member could hope for in high-quality community theater.

Show closes September 9, 2023.

From the spine-tingling rendition of “Once and For All,” to the aching and haunting “Santa Fe,” it is difficult to overstate the emotion running in and out of every scene in this play, particularly when one considers the factual basis for the story. Directed by Kyle Myrick, with music direction by Ashley Stackhouse and choreography by McKenzie Harts, Newsies is based on the real-life newsboy strike in 1899. With the poorest of the poor pitted against financial and influential giants like Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst, the story unfolds as a true David and Goliath tale — with a similarly triumphant, albeit less gory, ending.

Emerging as the man to watch right out of the gate, James David’s portrayal of the lead character Jack Kelly was superb. From his position high above the audience in the opening number — he nearly had to duck to avoid the auditorium ceiling as he maneuvered along the multi-level set — Jack’s fervent passion felt close enough to touch. That fervency carried on through each of Jack’s compelling musical numbers and dance sequences, as well as in his impassioned speeches.

However, that passion fell a little short when it came to the chemistry between David and his romantic counterpart McKenzie Harts, who played Katherine Plumber. While their romantic interactions fell was just shy of convincing, their banter was playful, and their friendship and camaraderie came across as genuine, which was enough to make the culmination of their relationship more plausible.

McKenzie Harts as Katherine Plumber. Photo by Alex Chamberlain.

Chemistry aside, Harts’s portrayal of the headstrong female reporter was perfect. As a woman trying to make it in a man’s world, Katherine Plumber’s plight is one that is still being explored from Broadway to Hollywood and everywhere in between. Harts’s particular combination of spunk and sass, countered with just the right amount of warmth and light, made her journey most enjoyable to watch. And her vocal strength on “Watch What Happens” and “Something to Believe In” showed she is a musical force with which to be reckoned.

Holding his own vocally, even as his character’s physical traits often left him trailing behind, Reed Laudie’s portrayal of Crutchie was excellent as well as compelling. Although his physical appearance was far sturdier and less waif-like than one might expect from a crippled boy on the streets of New York, it was clear Laudie was cast not only for his ability to portray a realistic limp, but for his remarkable vocals that emerged in “Santa Fe” and culminated in his sorrowful “Letter from the Refuge.”

Reed Laudie as Crutchie. Photo by Alex Chamberlain.

Each member of the Newsies ensemble — whether carrying the banner in Harlem, Queens, or Brooklyn and beyond — has a wonderful unified vocal strength, and dance skills that, despite their complicated and acrobatic nature, appeared to be delivered with ease. It was difficult to tell if the vocal power came from an excellent microphone setup, pre-recorded backing vocals or simply the on-stage power of a cast determined to give it their all, but songs like “The World Will Know,” “Seize the Day,” and “King of New York” were blow-the-roof-off level good. Meanwhile, the dancers delivered in style – with all the pirouettes, toe touches and heel clicks one might expect from this popular dance show.

One surprise in all this choreographed commotion came from the newest Newsie to arrive on the scene: Davey, played by Caleb Christensen. Christensen’s choice to play the character of Davey as perpetually stiff and overly reserved was surprising and awkward. Although one can easily respect Davey’s rigidity in the opening scenes, it is necessary that his reticence eventually fade into warmth to show his character’s journey. That did happen to a certain degree in “The World Will Know,” but never quite enough to make him the endearing character he might have been. Having seen Christensen in many other local productions and thoroughly enjoying his acting in other shows, this lack of dimension was particularly unexpected.

Caleb Christensen as Davey. Photo by Alex Chamberlain.

Equally unexpected — but this time in a good way — from a community theater production, was the beautiful part the set design played in telling the overall story. Kyle Myrick’s set design created a space that seemed to reach out to the audience the moment they entered the theater, pulling them into the streets of New York and giving them a visual component by which to dream with Jack of his hoped-for future in Santa Fe.

With all that the production of Newsies has to offer, the only thing left is for Southern Utah theater goers to arise and “Seize the Day” by getting tickets to attend.

The Hurricane Theatrical production of Newsies plays Fridays, Saturdays, and Mondays at 7 PM and Saturdays at 2 PM through September 9 at the Hurricane City Leisure and Recreation Center (92 South 100 West, Hurricane). Tickets are $8-16. For information, visit