Thursday, February 11, 2016

A Newsworthy Newsies

The Socialist Revolution Comes to the Stage

Photo courtesy of Hennepin Theatre Trust.
 It's always good to see shows that are timely, and the current production of Newsies at the Orpheum definitely fits the bill. 
Photo courtesy of Hennepin Theatre Trust.
Based on the cult classic 1992 film of the same name (featuring Robert Duvall, Ann Margaret and a very fresh Christian Bale), Newsies tells the story of the 1899 newsboy strike. The strike occurs when the newsboys who sell newspapers on the street, many of whom are orphaned children, unionize after Joseph Pulitzer (yes, THAT Pulitzer) raises the cost of newspapers. Despite many attempts to threaten or intimidate, the newsies never give in and instead force Pulitzer to treat them more fairly in the future.
Photo courtesy of Hennepin Theatre Trust.
It's easy to forget the importance of unions in an age when the percentage of union workers in the United States is on a continual, steep decline. Unions are the bedrock of key fair work principles most employees today enjoy, such as 40 hour work weeks, weekends, child labor laws, and safety regulations. The characters of Newsies, who are culled from the lower echelons of society, exemplify the need for such protection. It is heartwarming to see them win their cause, and inspiring to those who are following the current Bernie Sanders "socialist revolution" in the current presidential race.
Photo courtesy of Hennepin Theatre Trust.
The performers are great here too, especially considering their young age. I'd venture to guess that most of the boys in this show are barely in their 20s if at all, and they put on strong performances. As the head newsie Jack Kelly, Joey Barreiro displays an impressive, lyrical tenor and a fervent chutzpah that makes his character utterly appealing. Morgan Keene is inspiringly feisty as Katherine Pulitzer, the young reporter who puts the newsies in the news. The rest of the ensemble (too many to name) display lovely harmonies and especially acrobatic dancing, which is delightful to watch. There are too many roundhouses and back flips to count here, done effortlessly in cumbersome period clothing - it's incredibly engaging and a huge selling point for the show.
Photo courtesy of Hennepin Theatre Trust.
The set is an interesting mix of versatile scrims and an interlocking, New York tenement balcony style jungle gym. The ensemble moves between the complex structure with ease and makes full use of the vertical height of the stage, providing a multi-layered experience. It's a new way to set the show and appears much more detailed than it actually is, serving the high paced action well.
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Despite popular demand, Newsies wasn't converted to a stage production until 2012, and this is the first time it has been performed in Minneapolis. Tickets are selling like hotcakes, so make sure you get yours ASAP. This is a gem of a show and an awesome place to hide from our polar vortex; for more information and to buy tickets, click on this link.