Orange County School of the Arts

Review: Disney’s ‘Newsies’ is an invigorating blast of energy

Family-friendly “Newsies” takes the stage in a rare burst of enthusiasm. With well-loved catchy tunes from the movie as well as new songs added to the repitoire, the plucky Newsboys bring all that jazz from the 19th century to the 21st century with the pride and happy-go-lucky spirit of young boys fighting for their rights.

The musical hits a proper first note by introducing us to Jack Kelly singing his heart out about escaping the streets of New York to beloved Santa Fe. I could not imagine a better Jack than Dan DeLuca, who is perfectly fit to carry the banner indeed with his comedic timing, killer vocals and stage presence. Jack’s best friend, the fan-favorite Crutchie, is lovingly played by Zachary Sayle who pulls at heartstrings.

The Newsies go about their daily life, climbing and swinging all over a three-story steel set that imitates the feel of a fire escape. When Joseph Pulitzer, publisher of the New York World, decides to raise newspaper prices, Jack teams up with faint-hearted Davey (played by Jacob Kemp with the right amount of nerd) to throw down their newspapers and rise in rebellion.

It’s awe inspiring to see the scruffy tough young men band together in a strike as the set swivels and the background shifts from gorgeous skylines to busy streets.

There are differences between the musical and the movie, which rather nicely ties up loose ends of the plot. Denton is non-existent, replaced by Katherine (Stephanie Styles), a no-nonsense amateur reporter dead-set on making a difference with her words—little girls will look up to her, no doubt. It’s undeniable that Styles and DeLuca have the perfect chemistry to pull off their character’s adorable relationship.

Newsies moves at a pace that feels one step ahead of us even though the choreography doesn’t offer anything new. It’s the pure energy that was truly refreshing to see, whether the street urchins were tap-dancing, cartwheeling, back flipping, or spinning. 17-year-old Benjamin Cook, who plays Race, stands out from the cast with his gymnastic flexibility. But it was the youngest cast member, Anthony Rosenthal, who stole the show with his performance as Les, a bold little boy who brings to the table more than his share of spunk and laughs.

I went in with an expectation of a high-energy, swashbuckling triumphant musical and was blown away by the devotion and passion of the cast as they pumped their fists and tore newspapers apart. Though “Carrying the Banner,” “Seize the Day,” “King of New York,” and “The World Will Know,” all share similar themes, Newsies pumps vivacity and exuberance into every number, similarly infusing the audience with energy for a standing ovation. I left the theater feeling empowered by not only the Newsies’ victory but also the hard-working cast’s success in following their dreams.

“Newsies” runs at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre from now until April 19. Check out the website for more details