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Concert Reviews:
Good news: "Newsies" delivers big at the Detroit Opera House

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Wednesday, December 16, 2015

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DETROIT -- In a town that created unions and made a great deal of labor history, the idea of beating management with Fouette, Frappe, Cabriole and tap steps might seem a bit of a stretch.

But for "Newsies" -- showing through Dec. 27 at the Deroit Opera House -- it's a winning strategy, hands, or feet, down.

The exuberant Disney stage adaptation of the 1992 film, based on New York City's galvanizing Newsboys Strike of 1899, is a celebration of populist values and gritty blue-collar moxie, but most of all of how much fun it is to spend a couple of hours with an energetic and inventive song-and-dance ensemble show. The traveling company's leads certainly shine, but the star of "Newsies" is the entire cast and Christopher Gattelli's athletic, Tony Award-winning choreography, which has the troupe leaping, twirling, tapping and vaulting around the facile, multi-tier stage set, pausing only for the requisite Disney moments such as the love ballad "Something To Believe In."

The best numbers? The opening "Carrying The Banner" certainly serves notice that "Newsies" will be flying high, while the rabble-rousing "Seize the Day," with its slight shade of "Les Miserables," and the Act 2 opener "King of New York," filled with fleet tap dancing and slick spoon work, are breathless standouts. And Jordan Samuels in particular, as Specs, shows off Olympic-caliber flips.

Crucial as the dancing is, however, "Newsies" also succeeds because there's a heart in Harvey Fierstein's book and the Tony-winning soundtrack by Alan Menken and lyricist Jack Feldman, touching on some heady turn of the century socio-political issues and giving their characters plenty of flesh. As in the movie, these newsboys aren't just irreverent street rats fighting the power but rather are fully-drawn, three-dimensional characters, whether it's the artistic ambitions of unwitting organizer Jack Kelly (Joey Barreiro), the intellect of Davey Jacobs (Stephen Michael Langton) or the surprisingly gentle soul of Crutchie (Zachary Sayle).

And Morgan Keene's portrayal journalistic heroine Katherine Plumber is tough but not a caricature, a careful -- and convincing -- balance of confidence and vulnerability.

This is Disney, so the ending is, of course, a happy one. But "Newsies" takes a cleverly circuitous and never entirely predictable route to get there. It's as smart as it is entertaining, in other words, so maybe pirouetting on the picket line isn't a bad idea after all.


Tuesday, Dec. 15-Dec. 27.

Detroit Opera House, 1526 Broadway.

Tickets are $89 and $74.

Call 313-237-7464.

or visit broadwayindetroit.com.

Web Site: www.broadwayindetroit.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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