This edition is flawed but still ‘Newsies’ worthy

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This edition is flawed but still ‘Newsies’ worthy

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isabel newsiesguif90By Isabel Olson

This past week you may have seen young boys and girls wandering the streets of downtown Atlanta wearing newsboy caps but not selling papers. Why? Newsies was in town.

The hit musical Newsies invaded Atlanta this past week showing at the Fox Theatre Jan. 20-25.  This brilliant show, which closed on Broadway in August, delivered the timeless spectacle throughout the states for the first national tour. With a whole new cast, naturally the show couldn’t stay the same; while several aspects were lost in the transition, some moments of the show pulled together even more nicely.

From the moment the curtains opened,  I found myself at the edge of my seat. Not just because I was enthralled by the show but because I had to strain to make out the words. While this is certainly not the fault of the musical itself but rather the Fox Theatre’s sound system and interior design, it still puts a damper on the performance. Because the theater was built for displaying movies years ago, it is much too large to provide a Broadway-style connection.  Newsies was designed to be shown at the Nederlander Theatre with about a fourth of the audience size of the Fox. This disconnect does no justice to the intimacy of the show.

After having won the 2012 Tony Awards for best choreography, Newsies relies heavily on dancing. Christopher Gattelli, the show’s choreographer, did a brilliant job producing choreography that did not distract from the story but rather enhanced it. Every movement was made with a purpose in mind. The traveling cast did not deliver the crisp dancing that the choreography requires. There were dance numbers throughout the show that needed cleaning up. Boys were out of sync in “Carrying the Banner” and in some of the transition dances. Every jump, leap and turn should be exactly on the same counts and level in a show of this caliber. While the dancing was still amazing, it was not breathtaking, and they did not fully uphold the expected performance standards.

The hardest part about seeing a show transfer off Broadway is watching how the show doesn’t take on a new heart.  Broadway shows today too often copy the original performance. No one is allowed to take on new gestures or tones; the show gives you exactly what you paid for and nothing else. With a whole new cast, Newsies was bound to be different, but in the end the direction led to a lot of the same. The most dramatic copy off of the original stage was that the projected drawing of Katherine remained the same even when the new actress playing this role looks completely different. Crutchie, a newsboy, was given a new song “Letter from the Refuge,” which had been added to the traveling production. While the number did not detract from the show, it did not add much either.

These few stumbles certainly did not define the show. Newsies is simply too grand of a production to be brought down by a few missteps. The audience lit up both literally and figuratively during the number “Once and For All.” After the striking finish to the show-stopping number, “Seize the Day,” the music had to resume in order to get the audience to stop clapping.

The show displayed beautiful tech work and transitions. The simplicity of the scaffolding and New York backdrop was profoundly effective. The transitions were clean and quick and did not distract from the show, allowing scenes to run smoothly.

Dan Deluca and Stephanie Styles took the leading roles of Jack Kelly and Katherine; both leads did an exceptional job assuming these roles from their phenomenal predecessors. While Styles is rather new to the Broadway musical theater world, her inexperience only showed in “Watch What Happens” with a few slip-ups from a fatigued voice. This leading actor and actress had some of the greatest chemistry yet. The argument leading into “Something to Believe In” was raw and connected. This couple made the audience actually believe in their relationship throughout the song.

Overall this version of Newsies was well worth the time and money required to see it. This musical adapts relatively well for traveling shows, and it certainly is a perfect night out for any aged viewer! Newsies did not fail to seize the applause.

 

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