Mirvish presents Disney’s award-winning musical Newsies in Toronto
Mirvish is presenting the touring production of Disney Theatrical’s hit Broadway show Newsies for a limited run in Toronto. The show is adapted from the 1992 live-action Disney movie based on a real-life event: the New York City newsboys’ strike of 1899.
Who’d have thought a bunch of singing and dancing newsboys in a Disney-ized class struggle story could make for such an exhilarating night of theatre? I was a fan of the movie, but I actually enjoyed the stage version even more. I really didn’t expect to love it as much as I did.
Newsies is a classic underdog story: a charismatic newsboy, Jack Kelly (Dan DeLuca), rallies his fellow newsies to form a union to fight back against newspaper magnate Joseph Pulitzer (Stephen Blanchard) when he raises distribution prices to increase profit at the newsies’ expense. Throw in a largely superfluous rich girl/poor boy love sub plot between Jack and Pulitzer’s daughter Katherine (Stephanie Styles) and we’re off to the races.
Dan DeLuca leads the cast in the role of Jack Kelly. He puts the character through all the right paces and does a fine job, but I did think he was missing that extra something special, that X-factor that really makes the character magnetic. I wasn’t as drawn into his performance as much as I would’ve liked.
The script for the stage version has been re-jigged a bit and while most of the recognizable songs from the movie (by Alan Menken with lyrics by Jack Feldman) remain in tact, including “Carrying the Banner,” “Seize the Day,” “King of New York” and “Santa Fe,” the stage version also incorporates seven new songs that either add character development or musicalize dialogue scenes. For the most part they’re great additions to the show.
I was, however, disappointed by the tiny orchestra. Most of the score is carried by keyboards along with a drummer, a bass player and a lone trumpet/flugelhorn player as the sole brass musician. There’s a total absence of woodwinds or strings. Ironically, the minimum size for Broadway orchestras is an issue the musicians’ union once threatened to strike over and I think skimping on the orchestra really diminishes the overall experience of the show.
But Newsies is first and foremost a dance show. The show is carried on the strength of its show-stopping production numbers. And the dancing! My goodness, gracious, Lord almighty, the dancing! The breathtaking athleticism and almost acrobatic quality of the choreography make the production numbers truly dazzling.
The audience would often erupt into spontaneous applause after featured solos and the ovations at the end of these numbers were deafening. It’s easy to see why choreographer Christopher Gattelli took home a Tony Award for best Choreography for Newsies, as the dancing is the defining element of this show.
I also really liked Tobin Ost’s clever and inventive scenic design featuring a three-tier set piece that splits apart and rotates in various configurations to evoke a variety of different settings. It makes the show look very slick.
Newsies pretty much delivers everything you would expect from a Disney show. It’s a big production musical that’s sleek and polished with a young cast that radiates an exuberance that’s absolutely infectious. I unabashedly loved it. I sat there with a big, dumb grin on my face the entire time and left the theatre so exhilarated that I wanted to go running down the street singing and doing split jumps in the air.
- Newsies is playing at the Ed Mirvish Theatre (formerly The Canon) (244 Victoria Street) through August 30, 2015
- Shows run Tuesday to Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Wednesday, Saturday & Sunday at 1:30 p.m.
- Tickets $35.00 to $130.00
- Tickets are available by phone at 416-872-1212 or 1-800-461-3333, in-person at the Royal Alexandra Theatre box office or online at Mirvish.com
Photo of Dan DeLuca (center) and the original North American Tour company of NEWSIES by Deen van Meer.