Newsies by Friends’ Central School in Wynnewood, PA
March 6, 2019
Review submitted by Noelle Arpea of Archbishop John Carroll High School
Dirt covered faces hardened with determination, a strong-willed reporter, and corrupt old men conspiring against hard-working children – this is the perfect recipe for “Seizing the Day” with Friends’ Central School’s energetic and engaging production of Disney’s Newsies.
This exciting and heartwarming story takes place in the heart of New York City on the cusp of the 20th century and centers around the newsboys’ strike of 1899. The charming Jack Kelly and his gang of ragtag newsboys face the exciting yet treacherous conditions of life on the streets under the control of “rich, greedy sourpusses” as a larger battle brews for the fair treatment of child laborers across the city.
The cast was overall emotionally invested in their portrayal of their characters’ struggles, making it easy for the audience to feel very much a part of the story. Engaging and full of energy, the Newsies of Manhattan ensemble brought the electrifying choreography and tenacious personalities on stage to life. With captivating performances of numbers like “The World Will Know” and “King of New York,” the newsboys easily won the audience’s hearts and sympathies in their fight against the just-as-captivating, conniving, and controlling powerful men of the city.
Several gifted students made the many charming and challenging characters come to life on the stage. From characters you love to love, like Benny Flora as the cunning Jack Kelly, McKenna Blinman as the stubborn Katherine, Kate Dewey as the lovable Les, and Thad Bashaw as the level-headed Davey, to characters you love to hate, like Alejandro Lopez in his hot-headed portrayal of Joseph Pulitzer, these actors truly made the show an unforgettable experience.
The Newsies of Manhattan ensemble made this production the incredibly lovable and exciting experience that it was. The students brought constant energy throughout the show making even the most mundane of actions lively. The production was further heightened by the comic relief and incredibly endearing and convincing performances of Julia Dani as Race and Emma Gordon as Albert. Additional supporting performances from the comedic Nina Saligman as Wiesel and larger-than-life Xinping Xie as Medda Larkin rounded out the performance.
The simplistic yet detailed set perfectly represented the streets and rooftops of New York City, complemented by accurate and aesthetically pleasing props and smooth transitions, made the show into the life-like reality that it was. Changes in lighting seamlessly matched changes in mood and setting, allowing the audience to feel completely immersed in the story.
Friends’ Central School’s production of Disney’s Newsies captured the quintessential struggles of the newsboys’ strike while simultaneously capturing the attention and hearts of the audience.
Review submitted by Katrina Conklin of Baldwin School
One day, you’re on the street selling newspapers for a dollar; the next day you’re on the front page. In Friends’ Central’s production of Newsies, a new meaning was given to the ‘power of the press.’
Based on the 1992 film of the same name, Newsies chronicles the trials and tribulations faced by newsboys in late 19th century Manhattan. Fed up being financially exploited, the children decide to form a union and go on strike, under the leadership of the charismatic Jack Kelly. Behind the cheery musical numbers and witty jokes lies the grim reality of worker dehumanization which the newsies must fight against with all their power.
As an ensemble, the Manhattan Newsies’ energy was immeasurable. Whether they were belting out the chorus of “Carrying the Banner,” or tittering in the background while Jack took center stage, each ensemble member never broke character. An upbeat yet powerful zeal carried throughout the entire show, from the opening number to the grand finale.
If the newsies as a whole carried the banner, then it was Benny Flora as Jack Kelly who carried the newsies. His energy was earth-shaking, immaculately fit for the leader of a revolution. Even at the show’s conclusion, when Flora’s voice was audibly shaky from the vigorous performance he had given, his unrelenting fervor never once faltered.
Standing out from the ensemble of newsies were Julia Dani (Race) and Les (Kate Dewey). Dani’s vocals and dancing would not have looked out of place in a professional production, and her animated expressions and exaggerated accent were a performance highlight. Dewey nailed Les’s innocent charm, her ‘pout face,’ elicited a chorus of “awww” from the audience. Another spectacular performance came from Alejandro Lopez (Mr. Pulitzer), a vocal powerhouse who skillfully captured the tycoon’s snobbish greed.
The show’s unique technical details bolstered the performance from great to excellent. Alex Wang’s beautiful hand-painted flats added a lovely contrast to the industrial, neutral sets and costumes; Emma Gordon’s tap choreography in “King of New York,” made it a standout number among the myriad of excellent songs. The lighting design, by Hannah Benjet, augmented each scene’s mood, including a projected drawing of Katherine’s face.
The cast’s energy, mixed with masterful technical talent, helped make Newsies a performance to remember— just as we remember the brave children who fought for their rights 100 years ago.