Before seeing The Newsies film a few years ago, I didn’t know whether it would shimmer with a bit too much pixie dust when I noticed Disney produced it. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a Florida girl who still gets goosebumps during fireworks at Magic Kingdom and feels like a million bucks hugging costumed characters. But it seemed like it could teeter awkwardly on the edge of cheesy and magnificent. Of course, I was entirely wrong about the movie, so when my sisters and I discovered it was off Broadway in Orlando, we bought tickets with no shortage of squealing.
My hopes were high as we sunk into the plush crimson balcony seats, yet as the play unfolded I was floored beyond my expectations. I certainly didn’t expect the tears that trickled out against my will during Crutchy’s monologue at the refuge or the occasional blushingly provocative lines. All the way through, I caught myself sitting on the edge of my seat to catch every inch of impeccable choreography (which is impossible, by the way). Theatre does rule the screen.
Although the play has a bit of a slow start, it didn’t take long before we were swept up in the cause that had Teddy Roosevelt practically high-fiving protagonist Jack Kelly at the end and the audience applauding clever lines from scene to scene. (I wonder whether those actors ever tire of delivering witty lines.) The same passion that sparked the boys to strike, the courage that moved Jack to inspire his friends and deep-down gut-level warmth and confidence that friendship brings in spite of the worst circumstances–these feelings wiggled their way into our hearts.
Stylistically, the production was top-notch. Acrobatics always amaze me as one who can’t do a cartwheel to save my life. But talent’s unmistakable. From the synchronized backflips and flying kicks to the trademark dancing-on-newspapers scene, “Seize the Day,”–every motion was tight and stunning. I love the way synchronous dance expressed the unity that drew and kept the band of brothers together.
The difference in the audience between the opening scene and intermission was remarkable. Let’s just say by the end, our electricity rivaled that of the building. Actually, I’d say we won by a long shot.