Review: Newsies (Broadway in Chicago, 2016)

| August 4, 2016

Carrying the Banner from Newsies, Broadway Chicago          

Alan Menken (music), Jack Feldman (lyrics)
   and Harvey Fierstein (book)
Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph (map)
thru Aug 7  |  tix: $35-$100  |  more info
Check for half-price tickets   


Energetic cast, score, choreography make for entertaining evening


Disney's Newsies, Broadway in Chicago

Broadway in Chicago and Disney Theatricals presents

Review by John Olson

The classic Disney musicals have always had a lesson or moral: Beauty and the Beast says not to judge by appearances, Pinocchio says honor your parents and never lie, Frozen has all sorts of life lessons (just Google “Frozen life lessons” and see). Newsies, Disney’s stage musical that began life as a live-action movie musical says labor unions are a positive force for change. It’s a good lesson – just one you don’t expect to find in a mass-market product from a corporate giant like Disney, as progressive as they have been on many issues. Of course that’s just one way to look at this story based on the real-life Newsboy Strike of 1899, in which juvenile independent newspaper street hawkers protested an increase in the wholesale price of the papers they sold. Like the other Disney classics, it’s also a Seize the Day from Newsies, Broadway in Chicagostory of young people finding the strength within themselves to grow and overcome the odds. Which is to say, it’s a story that lends itself to the sort of upbeat, feel-good entertainment that has been so much of the Disney formula for nearly a century. Since it’s yon real events and acknowledges the poverty these kids lived in (however sugar-coated its presentation here may be), audiences can rightly feel good about seeing the boys prevail over the likes of newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer without feeling manipulated.

And boy is it entertaining. The energy of the 28-member cast, of which nearly 20 are young men apparently under age 25, is boundless; as director Jeff Calhoun and choreographer Christopher Gattelli keep them in perpetual motion for 2 hours and 20 minutes of stage time. Following a quiet opening scene in which the lead character Jack Kelly (Joey Barreiro) and his slightly disabled pal “Crutchie” (Andy Richardson) wake up and dream of a healthier life in Santa Fe, New Mexico; the ensemble of newsies wakes up and prepares for a day of hawking papers in “Carrying the Banner,” the first of several spectacular dance numbers. The newsies seem to love their job and, by the looks of it, so do the actors playing them. Even from the second row, the performers never faltered and the characters’ strength and optimism – even following a brutal confrontation with the police and corporate goons after the strike begins – continues to carry the action forward. Following scenes that introduce Pulitzer (the charmingly villainous Steve Blanchard), an attractive and sympathetic girl reporter (Morgan Keene), and the set up to the conflict that leads to the strike (Pulitzer decides to combat sagging circulation by raising prices so the newsies will have to sell more papers just to keep their income even), the boys decide to take action in the second big production number, “Seize the Day” and from there on in, the energy and pace never wane.

Morgan Keene and Joey Barreiro in Newsies, Broadway Chicago Morgan Keene with the newsies, Broadway in ChicagoCarrying the Banner from Newsies, Broadway Chicago Joey Barreiro as Jack Kelly in Newsies, Broadway in Chicago Zachary Sayleand Joey Barreiro in Newsies, Broadway in Chicago Morgan Keene and Joey Barreiro in Newsies, Broadway in ChicagoJoey Barreiro and Newsies, Broadway in Chicago 

Gattelli’s choreography is full of athletic, gymnastic moves that capture the swagger of adolescent males, and there’s also a sensational tap number, “King of New York,” to open the second act. The kineticism of this dance-heavy show is matched by Calhoun’s blocking, using every inch of the stage and proscenium as Tobin Ost’s set of rotating scaffolding in conjunction with Sven Ortel’s projections (adapted for the tour by Daniel Brodie), moves to suggest locations across the lower Manhattan of 1899. While Newsies may lack the elaborate sets of a Mary Poppins, the ingenious puppetry of a Lion King, or the special effects of a Beauty and the Beast, the staging is the spectacle here. Jess Goldstein’s period costumes cap the establishment of time and place quite nicely as well.

On Broadway, Newsies did much to advance the career of Jeremy Jordan, who played the lead role of Jack Kelly. It may do the same for Barreiro – a handsome triple-threat performer that can land the wry jokes written by Harvey Fierstein while still making us believe his character’s pain. Barreiro is also a powerful singer that can handle the ballads softly and sweetly as well as leading the anthems with conviction. With help from his supporting cast and a fully engaged ensemble at the top of this very challenging game, he makes this second Chicago tour stop of Newsies well worth taking in.

Rating: ★★★½

Newsies continues through August 7th at Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph (map)..  Tickets are $35-$100, and are available by phone (800-775-2000) or through (check for half-price tickets at More information at time: 2 hours 35 minutes, includes a 15-minute intermission)

King of New York from Newsies, Broadway in Chicagoi

Photos by Deen van Meer




Joey Barreiro (Jack Kelly), Steve Blanchard (Joseph Pulitzer), Morgan Keene (Katherine), Aisha de Haas (Medda Larkin, nun), Stephen Michael Langton (Davey), Andy Richardson (Crutchie), Turner Birthisel, Ethan Steiner (Les – alternating), Eric Scott Kincaid (Seitz, ensemble), Bill Bateman (Bunsen, Stage Manager, ensemble), Joshua Burrage (Darcy, ensemble), Kevin Carolan (Governor Roosevelt, ensemble), Michael Dameski (Scab, ensemble), Julian DeGuzman (swing, ensemble), Nico DeJesus (Romeo, ensemble), JP Ferreri (Scab, swing, ensemble), Sky Flaherty (Albert, Scab, ensemble), Kaitlyn Frank (nun, ensemble), Michael Gorman (Wiesel, Mr. Jacobi, Mayor, ensemble), Stephen Hernandez (swing), Meredith Inglesby (Hannah, nun, ensemble), James Judy (Snyder, ensemble), Beth Stafford Laird (swing), Devin Lewis (Morris Delancey, ensemble), Eric Jon Mahlum (swing), Nicholas Masson (Mush, Bill, ensemble), Anthony Norman (Oscar Delancey, ensemble), Michael Rios (Henry, ensemble), Jordan Samuels (Specs, ensemble), Daniel Switzer (Race, ensemble), Andrew Wilson (swing), Iain Young (Finch, ensemble), Anthony Zas (Spot Conlon, ensemble)


James Dodgson (conductor), Faith Seetoo (keyboard, associate conductor), Chip Prince (keyboard, asst. conductor), Paul ghBaron, Tim Burke (trumpet, flugelhorn), Jim Gailloreto (reeds), Dan Johnson (trombone, bass trombone), Andrew McCann (violin), Jocelyn Davis-Beck (cello), Steve Roberts (guitar, banjo), Joe Wallace (bass), Heinrich Kruse, Joe Sonnefeldt (percussion)

behind the scenes

Jeff Calhoun (director), Christopher Gattelli (choreographer), Tobin Ost (scenic design), Jess Goldstein (costume design), Jeff Croiter (lighting design), Ken Travis (sound design), Sven Ortel (original Broadway projection design), Daniel Brodie (projection adaptation), Charles G. LaPointe (hair and wig design), J. Allan Suddeth (fight direction), Telsey + Company, Justin Huff (casting), Geoffrey Quart (technical supervisor), Caitlyn Thomson (general manager), Jeff Norman (production stage manager), Patricia L. Grabb (stage manager), Kristen Torgrimson (asst. stage manager), Mark Hummel (dance music arrangements), John Miller (music coordinator), Jeff Marder (music programmer), James Dodgson (music director), Richard J. Hinds (associate director), Lou Castro (associate choreographer), Danny Troob (orchestrations), Michael Kosarin (music supervisor, music arranger), Andrew Wilson (dance captain), Stephen Hernandez (asst. dance captain), Steve Carolan (fight captain), Deen van Meer (photos)

Joey Barreiro as Jack Kelly in Newsies, Broadway Chicago


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Category: 2016 Reviews, Alan Menken, Broadway in Chicago, Cadillac Palace Theatre, John Olson, Musical, National Tours, Video, YouTube

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