With “Newsies,” Disney (which has proved it can do almost anything) turned a failed film into a hit Broadway musical.
What’s more, “Newsies” is a hit Broadway musical about a subject that everyone living in the 21st century finds terribly sexy: the newspaper business.
OK, maybe that’s just me.
“Newsies” tells a fact-based tale of a newsboys strike that happened in New York City in the late 1800s. Our hero is Jack Kelly (played in the Civic production by Alex Leavell). He’s a natural-born leader who incites his fellow newsies to strike, then begins to regret the fallout of that crusade.
At the same time, he finds himself falling in love with an ambitious young reporter named Katherine Plumber (Darby LeClear in the Civic version).
Leavell is spot-on as Kelly and his chemistry with LeClear is palpable.
I could single out many actors for excellence and persuasiveness: LeClear, nimble-footed Eric Smead as Davey Jacobs (a young man who is trying to fill in for his unemployed father), and middle schooler Parker Nagel as Les, Davey’s younger brother (Nagel’s self-assured performance is a gem).
But that wouldn’t be quite fair. In “Newsies,” the Civic Theatre (which is to say, director/choreographer Leslie Beauchamp) has put together one of the strongest ensemble casts we have seen locally in many a year.
Every one of the newsboys (and newsgirls) is ingratiating and utterly convincing. The dancing, singing, and sets (a series of interlocking ladders and scaffolds) are all tops. A projection system, used to show newspaper headlines and historical photos, is ingeniously employed.
If you have been on the fence about seeing this, get off the fence. If the rest of the shows in the Civic’s 91st season are as good as this, we have a lot to look forward to.
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February 8 • Paramount Theatre, Anderson, IN