by Mindy Leaf
Breaking news! Slow Burn Theatre Company ends their famously popular 2022/2023 season with one more exhilarating, high-energy extravaganza!
NEWSIES: THE BROADWAY MUSICAL is captivating audiences of all ages at Broward Center’s Amaturo Theatre through June 25. Based on the 1992 Disney movie, it features a Tony-award-winning score by theater titans Alan Menken (“Little Shop of Horrors,” “Sister Act”) and Jack Feldman, and a book by Tony Award winner Harvey Fierstein (“Kinky Boots”). Best of all, this musical is inspired by a true, heartwarming and heart wrenching story set in old New York at the turn of the 20th century. A time of child labor, struggling unions, all-powerful media moguls … um, how far have we really come?
Standing up and striking for their rights. The cast of Disney’s NEWSIES ignites
Broward Center’s Amaturo Theater stage through June 25. Leading the charge is Samuel
Cadieux as Jack Kelly, flanked at the left by little Nate Colton as Les, Mickey White as
his brother Davey and, to the right, Joel Hunt as Crutchie. Photos by Larry Marano.
Back then young boys and some girls (as young as seven through their teens) called “newsies” bought, and then hawked, daily newspapers (owned by names like Pulitzer and Hearst) on the streets of New York City. In the summer of 1899 they went on strike for two weeks when publishers decided to raise distribution prices at the newsboys’ expense. (They were forced to buy the papers first and part of their union’s ultimate win would include refunds for unsold copies.)
The two-and-a-half hour musical (with one intermission) is an amazing “Broadway can’t do it better” production that dazzles and delights through memorable songs – both poignant and invigorating – awesome dance numbers, and striking scene changes that are a testament to the incredibly talented cast and creative team. Quality we’ve come to expect from our locally celebrated Slow Burn brand, but impressive nonetheless.
Multiple Carbonell and Silver Palm award-winning artistic director (and co-founder) Patrick Fitzwater once again shines as director (as he has for all of the company’s 62 performances). Here he’s also credited with sound and wig design. When an enthusiastic (as always) Fitzwater leaped onto the stage on opening night to welcome the audience and introduce “Newsies” and their upcoming season, he received a well-deserved star reception. I’ve been a loyal Slow Burn follower since he and executive director (and co-founder) Matthew Korinko’s earliest productions on a high school stage far out west. This stubbornly local company has managed to achieve nary the impossible – start out great and just keep getting better. And in this show we get to once again enjoy Korinko, the actor, in his portrayal of ruthless publishing giant Joseph Pulitzer.
Proving a young lady can have great ideas while singing and dancing up a storm is
unsinkable Lea Marinelli as reporter Katherine Plumber in Slow Burn’s NEWSIES,
now playing at Broward Center’s Amaturo Theater.
Every part of what makes a musical special excels here – song, dance, storyline, setting, costumes and scenery. But there’s no denying that “Newsies” is number one in dance. From the outset, elaborate all-male dance numbers (later joined by one terrific lady) highlight each participant in incredible gymnastic leaps through the air, somersaults, tumbles, powerful modern dance moves and traditional tap. If you’re only a fan of dance, you need to see this show. Accolades to choreographer Trent Soyster, dance captain Austin Carroll and his assistant Samuel Colina. Most of the leads are amazing “triple threats” (actors, singers, dancers) as well, but here I’d like to also give a shout out to the dance ensemble whose high-stepping high-jinx support almost every scene.
“Newsies” opens to early morning light on a rooftop atop strings of laundry held by fire escape-like scaffolding in a lower class part of Lower Manhattan. This scaffold-type scenic design by Kelly Tighe frequently spins around, manifesting set change wonders throughout the show. All complemented by evocative cityscapes and painted mural projections by Andre Russell, lighting design by Clifford Spulock and Michael Ursua’s music direction. Meanwhile resident costume designer Rick Pena perfectly outfits the cast in authentic period dress, no matter their class.
The introductory song “Santa Fe” by lead newsboy Jack Kelly (Samuel Cadieux) and his adopted “brother” with a bum leg, crutch dependent Crutchie (Joel Hunt) speaks to their fantasy dream of clean air and a quiet life far from their struggles to survive in the mean streets of Manhattan. I, for one, was surprised to learn that the majority of these young newspaper hawkers were both homeless and parentless, too busy earning pennies for food to attend school and forever on their guard against an even crueler fate, i.e. lock up at The Refuge, a horrendous juvenile detention center run purely for profit. Crutchie’s haunting solo “Letter from The Refuge” in Act II provides impetus for the newsie union to include all under 21s in sweat shops and low-wage positions throughout the city to join their strike for a brighter, more humane future.
Kareema Khouri as burlesque theater owner Medda Larkin brings down the house with
her powerful opening number while entranced newsie brothers Davey and Les peek
from the back alongside a beautiful pastoral scene painted by artistically talented strike
leader, Jack Kelly.