‘Newsies’ Strikes Some Great Chords at the Lake Worth Playhouse

If you didn’t happen to pick up on the pun I tried to pull off in the title of this review, then I suppose you may not be familiar with the plot of Newsies, a 2011 musical based on a 1992 film that was itself inspired by the true story of the newsboys strike of 1899

And while I must admit that my more cynical side is entirely aware of a certain irony in the show being a property of Disney, a company likely more aligned with the monopolizing villains of the story than its scrappy heroes, there’s still plenty of charm in this easy-to-swallow story, as well as in the Lake Worth Playhouse’s respectable production.

Overall, despite the script’s softening oversimplification of what I’m sure is a harsher and more complex reality, a catchy, likable score and an eager cast of mostly-young actors make for a dependably animated evening. Incredibly, leading actor Chris Ombres, who plays the group’s ringleader Jack Kelly, learned the part in only two weeks after the original actor suffered an injury, but still brings plenty of energy, charisma, and character to the role. 

He’s backed up by a large ensemble of both male and female “newsies” who fill the stage with upbeat choreography during several rousing group numbers. Besides the show’s main strike throughline, the other major plot thread that emerges focuses on Katherine Plumber, a young reporter who seeks to help the newsies achieve their aims—and to make a name for herself in a male-dominated writing world in the process—by being the one to break their story. 

In the memorable solo number “Watch What Happens,” which was one of my favorites of the evening, actress Lara Williams gives voice to a manic string of the character’s anxieties about having the weight of the world on her shoulders as the fateful designated scribe. In the process, she also ends up starting to fall for Kelly, her prime subject—a valid occupational hazard for your average overeager young female journalist, I’ll admit—which leads into the requisite romance needed to flesh out a full-fledged feel-good ending. 

Other standout performers included Catalina Ruiz De Gamboa as vaudeville singer Medda Larkin and Steven Toffler as the villainous Joseph Pulitzer. I was also struck by the work of director Daniel Eilola and fight choreographer Danny Distasio during one riot scene that portrayed surprisingly believable chaos. And though other moments of staged violence were more obviously trickery, I remember a few convincing and frightening enough that they were actually gasp-worthy. 

I also found that not every piece of dialogue was completely understandable, especially as many of the characters affected thick accents, but most other elements seemed to be in order in this enjoyable jaunt. I suppose I could go on another tangent entirely about what it means to turn a true story about the exploitation of child labor into a light-hearted piece of entertainment, but on the other hand, as the character Medda puts it: “Where better to escape trouble than the theatre?”

So if you do indeed find yourself looking for a place to escape the horrors of today’s headlines by losing yourself in an uplifting old-fashioned musical comedy about some headline-hawking newsboys, you’ve got until only this April 30th to catch Newsies!

You may also like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *