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Extra! Extra! Newsies Offers High Kicking Fun!

September 16, 2015

             Some days we’re just happy that our newspaper carrier can get the daily edition to our door on time. We had no idea how well some of them are able to dance.

Newsies, the 2012 Tony award winner for best choreography and musical score opened at Madison’s Overture Center on September 15th to a near sell-out crowd. The energy was electric, the music upbeat, and the dancing phenomenal.

Based on the book Children of the City by David Nasaw, the musical tells the story of how a group of young newspaper sellers — ‘newsies’ — organized a strike against New York World editor Joseph Pulitzer when he increased their price of newspapers from 50 cents to 60 cents for every hundred newspapers they tried to sell.

Newsies takes place in Lower Manhattan in the year 1899. The United States is experiencing explosive economic growth and consequently, child labor was common. Children worked as ‘newsies,’ as well as in slaughterhouses and sweatshops. Led by organizer Jack Kelly (Dan DeLuca) under the tutelage of Davey (Jacob Kemp), the newsies organize a union and stop Pulitzer from raising the papers’ price. But the impact of the story goes further because the successful “strike” led to the enactment of child labor laws.

The story begins with “Crutchie” (Zachary Sayle) leaving the rooftop he calls home early in the morning to get the circulation gate to be the first to pick up the day’s papers. He shares the rooftop ‘penthouse’ with Jack, who hears Crutchie and tells him that there are better places to be than Manhattan—and thus the introduction of the signature song in the musical Santa Fe.

The story continues with Jack meeting Katherine (Stephanie Styles), a young female reporter who dreams of writing news stories — not fluffy features — and culminates in, well, you’ll have to go see it for yourself.

While the musical score written by Alan Menken and Jack Feldman has memorable songs such as King of New York and Seize the Day, it is Christopher Gattelli’s choreography and the physical prowess of the dancers that steal the show.

The cast consists of 29 very gifted young singers and dancers. They leap, twirl and tap their way into the hearts of the audience as they take on the newspaper magnate and his henchmen. Indeed, when Gattelli auditioned young men to play the Newsies, he looked for and hired those who were gymnasts or had classical ballet training. The result is a troupe of dances unlike anything you can imagine.
The dancers have two different sets of shoes for the performances—one set is for dancing, the other is for tapping. The tap dancing numbers are entertaining, but the most astounding performance (amidst many astounding performances) is the dance number that takes place at Newsies Square to the musical number “Seize the Day.”

The dancers leap, whirl and use torn newspapers to glide across the stage, as they take on Pulitzer and company. One has to wonder how do they do it without tearing some body part?

The number is both breathtaking and inspiring. It is something you simply have to see to believe. Newsies is playing at the Overture Center in Madison through September 20. For ticket information visit www.overturecenter.org.

 

 

 

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