REVIEW: Newsies

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I think I expected too much.  Disney’s NEWSIES, one of the more popular touring Broadway shows, opened at the Aronoff on Tuesday night.  The story of this group of young poor paperboys who fight the power and go on strike is remarkable – when you learn that its true.  But as a fictionalized plot, it falls flat.

But thank goodness for the dancing, right?  It’s fun but again, I was disappointed.  Too much of it was out of sync, much of it dumbed down from the videos I’ve seen of the Broadway production, and the energy level seemed low.  Actually, it reminded me of the last Disney show at the Aronoff as THE LION KING seemed to suffer from the same sort of road-fatigue.

It’s 1899 and Joey Barreriero is “Jack Kelly,” the leader of this rag tag group of newspaper sellers or “Newsies.”  Steve Blanchard is “Joseph Pulitzer,” the media mogul who decides to raise prices not accounting for what it will do to the economy or the people in the publishing ecosystem.  We also meet a reporter, “Katherine” (played by Morgan Keene, Kelly’s best friend, “Crutchie” (Zachary Sayle), and a brand new newsie named “Davy” (Stephen Michael Langton).

All do a fine job in their respective parts; perhaps my expectation of being blown away was out of line.  Maybe the hype was too high.  Or maybe the show just isn’t as good as it could be.

The set is very interesting and the projections interface seamlessly with the moving physical apparatus.  The music by Alan Menken is catchy enough and the staging is pleasant to look at.  However, the sound was muffled (or sometimes not even turned on at all!) and continues to be too frequent a problem in this space.

Regardless, NEWSIES will play well to Cincinnati audiences based on name recognition alone. And its certainly a family friendly favorite.  I just think history deserves a better retelling.

Please go see for yourself now through March 13th.  Support the arts!

If I were in town, I’d be checking out this Newsboys Variety Show playing on March 7th . . . but I’ll instead I’ll be immersed in Disney magic in Orlando this weekend.

NEWSIES plays at the Aronoff Center for the Arts through March 13th in Downton Cincinnati.  More information can be found here.