By Iride Aparicio

Photos by: Deen Van Meer

NEWSIES cast with Jack  (DeLuca) at center
 NEWSIES cast with Jack  (DeLuca) at center          

San Francisco, CAThe SHN 2014-2015 Season continues with Disney’s musical NEWSIES, direct from Broadway. Based on true events, the musical relates the story of a band of orphan newspaper boys who become heroes when they stood up to the most powerful men in New York. The Winner of the 2012 Tony Awards® for Best Score and Best Choreography was a hit crowd-pleasing on its opening night at the Orpheum theatre in S.F., where its heart-pounding song numbers and high-energy dancing drove the audience to stand in an ovation that lasted several minutes.

NEWSIES started as a movie and then an unsuccessful theatrical release.  But when kids created a cult of the release and bootleg versions of the show, DISNEY developed a musical which could be licensed to schools. The show took a life of its own. When the reviews of the show at  the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey in 2011 were terrific, the show moved to Broadway for a 12-week run that lasted more than two years.

Director JEFF CALHOUN who turned the movie into one of the biggest hits musicals on Broadway, writes in the program that with over 30 dancers, the show is very hard to cast because these kids most be able not only to dance, but to act and sing, and that the dancers in this show, are the best dancers in the country.

The cast of NEWSIES dancing
                           The cast of NEWSIES dancing            

Talking about the show he writes: “It is undeniable that you’re watching the best of the new generation, and the show is better, tighter and sharper now than it was when it opened.”

One of the reason the audience likes NEWSIES is that it is a show acted by kids, but it is not a show about kids. It is a show about individuals taking responsibility for their own lives, and standing up for what they believe is right.

The action takes place in the year l899, in New York City, and opens on the terrace of the  news boys  (newsies) lodging house, an old bleak-looking g two-floor building with rows of windows.  Because many of these boys are orphans, the building is ran by nuns, who they claim feed them two-days old donuts hard as rocks and stale coffee.

This morning, at the crack of dawn, Jack Kelly ( DAN deLUCA) and “Crutchie” (ZACHARY SAYLE) a boy with a crutch, are taking to each other on the rooftop.  Jack telling his friend that the streets of New York sucked the life our of his father but that they are not going to suck his. Singing, Santa Fe, he says that he is moving to New Mexico, because he wants to live the rest of his life in Santa Fe, a small town, that he has never seen before, but that he can imagine when he closes his eyes.  He invites “Crutchie to join him, promising the boy that cannot walk without a crutch, that in Santa Fé he will be able to run, riding a horse. That in Santa Fe, the people are warm and that they will welcome them, and ask them to stay.

With the raising of the sun, the other boys begin waking up and soon they are all at work, standing on a city's corner waiting for the newspaper distributor  to buy from him the papers that they are planning to sell on that day.

In “Carrying the Banner,” (another song) the boys talk about their job (buying each newspaper for two cents and selling it for a nickel) calling it “A crooked game” They complain about working outdoors, sweating during the Summer heat and freezing during the winter , and made fun of the newspaper readers who pay to read about bad things.

And as they wait for the stacks of papers to arrive, Jack (deLUCA) meets two boys: Davey (JACOB KEMP) and his little brother Les (VINCENT CROCILLA) who had a father and a mother, but now are trying to sell newpapers to support their family, because their father was hurt in his job  and then fired after that. The importance of having a Union is mentioned in the conversation.

The story changes point of view.  This time we moved to the inside of the  the newspaper offices where Mr. Pulitzer,  the owner of the newspaper the boys sell, In the song  “The bottom line” Pulitzer convinces his associates to raise the price of the newspapers by ten cents, (the Newsies buy one hundred newspapers for fifty cents)  to “force” the  boys to sell ten newpapers more every day if they want to earn enough money to survive.

The newsies with Jack (de LUCA) at center, persuading them to strike.
 The newsies with Jack (de LUCA) at center, persuading them to strike.

It was a good idea, but the problem happens when instead of surrendering to pay the higher price for the newspapers, the Newsies decide to strike.

What happens after they do, is told in  a combination of  short dialogues, a visit to the theatre, violent encounters, songs and many assembly dances. The boys even have a moment of fame, when a newspaper woman Katherine (STEPHANY STYLES) decides to publish their stpru (with photo) on the front page of the newspaper she writes for.

And as the fight continues. things get ugly. There are more violent encounters. People are going to jail. The boys are being physically hurt. When Jack (de LUCA) called the boys to strike, he did not want  these things to  happen, Scare, he leaves the boys and goes into  hiding. He realizes now how futile was the strike. There was no way “David” (as the strikers call themselves) could defeat Goliath (the name they gave the big newspaper corporations)

Then, something happens to Jack. Something completely unexpected, so Jack returns to  lead the newsies, until they win the battle.

We must remember that this story was true and that the only new additions to the story told in NEWSIES, with book written by HARVEY FIERSTEIN, Music by ALAN MENKEN and lyrics by JACK FELDMAN, are the songs and dances added by DISNEY to the story to give it a new dimension.

And the new dimension is marvelous. The acting of all the actors is realistic, but we ought to mentionm excelence and on opening night DeLUCA and  Less (CROCILLA) as Davey’s little brother represented their role with excellence. Another performance worth mentioning on that night was the one of ANGELA GROVEY in her role as Medda Larkin the owner of the theatre, performing her song about rich people. The boys chorus were all well tuned and the choreography of all the dances rhythmic and perfectly synchronized. The ensembles in this musical are so precise, that they needed to be seen to be believed

. NEWSIES, The Broadway’s smash musical

 NEWSIES, The Broadway’s smash musical will play at the Orpheun Theatre until  March 15,  For tickets information go to shnsf.com or call 888-746-1799