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Home | Maine State Music Theater Reviews | Extra, Extra, Read all about it...Newsies Takes MSMT Stage By Storm!

Extra, Extra, Read all about it...Newsies Takes MSMT Stage By Storm!

Review by Charles Crosby and Photos by Roger S. Duncan Review by Charles Crosby and Photos by Roger S. Duncan

Review by Charles Crosby and Photos by Roger S. Duncan - Maine State Music Theatre (MSMT) presented the last show of their best selling season in their history with the New England Regional Premier of the all-singing, all-dancing, high-energy show, NEWSIES on Thursday, August 10. MSMT is fortunate to have the Executive Artistic Director of the Fulton Theatre who has also choreographed more than 300 shows, Marc Robin, at the helm of this musical. The creative Director/Choreographer has outdone himself this time with this fast paced high energy musical. The dancing and gymnastics was acknowledged by the audience several times with thunderous applause throughout the performance, the likes of which I have not seen on this stage since SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS in 2014.

Disney's NEWSIES is the rousing tale of Jack Kelly, a charismatic New York City newsboy at the turn of the century and leader of a ragged band of teenaged "Newsies," far from the hardship of the streets. Inspired by the real-life Newsboy Strike of 1899, when newsboy Kid Blink led a band of orphan and runaway newsies on a two-week-long action against powerful newspaper publishers, this timely and fresh fictionalized adaptation addresses age-old themes of social injustice, exploitative labor practices, and David-versus-Goliath struggles as the young learn to harness their power against a corrupt establishment. NEWSIES is based on the book by Harvey Fierstein and features the score by eight-time Academy Award winner Alan Menken and lyrics by Jack Feldman.
 
The show begins with a prologue on a New York City rooftop at dawn featuring two of the show's main characters, Jack Kelly, played by Matt Farcher and Crutchie, played by Blake Stadnick.  Farcher appeared at MSMT last season in EVITA as Che and also played Jack in NEWSIES at Fulton Theater and knows this character well. His accent and mannerisms are perfect and he has an excellent singing voice. Stadnick, who was a 2013 MSMT Intern, also has an excellent voice and is a great sidekick to the leader of the newsies. In scene 1 on Newsie Square the audience gets their first glimpse of things to come with respect to this talented dance and acrobatic troupe.  During the song  
"Carrying the Banner" the dance ensemble really showcases their abilities and the audience lets them know it with a long ovation. 
 
Angela Grovey, who plays Medda Larkin the Bowery madam, sings "That's Rich" beautifully in Scene 4 at her theater in a very funny scene and is perfectly cast in this role. In the next scene we meet Davey (Justin Schuman) and and his younger brother Les (Timothy Woodward, Jr.) who are trying to help their out-of-work father pay the bills by working as newsies.  Schuman, who is making his MSMT debut, has an excellent voice and is great in this role opposite 11 year old Woodward who is also on the MSMT stage for the first time. Woodward has played this same character at the Fulton Theatre and has appeared on stage in various roles at other East Coast regional theaters. The young man has a promising future and has great stage presence.
 
It was a joy to see Kate Fahrner on stage again at MSMT who plays the love interest of Jack. Katherine is the daughter of publishing tycoon Joseph Pulitzer played by Brian Sutherland who is making his MSMT debut. She starred in the role of Eva in EVITA last year and a highlight for me in Act 1 was her singing in her news office "Watch What Happens".  This is not an easy song to sing and she nails it with her mannerisms, inflections and infectious enthusiasm. She is a true standout in NEWSIES and her tap dancing in the first scene of Act 2 at Jacobi's Deli with the Newsies troupe is fantastic.  
 
The show is high energy and a another memorable scene was during the song "Seize the Day" at the end of Act 1 which features Davey, Jack, Les, Crutchie and the Newsies. The dancing and acrobatic maneuvers, which included ridiculous high jumps and gymnastic moves, rivals any cheer leading finals competition and was met by a another thunderous very long ovation. In my opinion this scene alone is worth the price of your ticket. Dance Captain Cody Smith (Elmer), who is making his MSMT debut, and his fellow dancers are a joy to watch.   
 
Farcher (Jack) ends the scene with a reprise of "Santa Fe" and his emotion and vocal range was touching and was a perfect way to segue to intermission.  
 
The first scene in the second act was an audience grabber with "King of New York" sung by Race, Davey, Les, Katherine and the Newsies and the choreography was another show stopper with the incredible tap dancing battles between the ensemble and Katherine. A touching moment in the musical, which also showcased the talent of Farcher (Jack) and Fahrner (Katherine), was "Something to Believe in" set on a New York City rooftop in Scene 6.      
 
The supporting cast and ensemble for NEWSIES are: Brian Liebson (Finch/Ensemble), Tony Lawson (Seitz/Ensemble), Mateo Menendez (Spot Conlon), Bill Bateman (Wiesel/Jacobi/Mayor/Ensemble), Daniel Yearwood (Race/Ensemble), Mark Aldrich (Nunzio/Roosevelt/Ensemble), Matthew Marvin (Henry/Ensemble), Mickey White (Morris Delancey/Ensemble), Kevin Murray (Oscar Delancey/Ensemble), Mike Baskowski (Mike/Ensemble), Kevin Murakami (Ike/Ensemble), Bentley Black (Albert/Ensemble), Kyle Samuel (Mush/Ensemble), Ross Thompson (JoJo/Ensemble), Donovan Hoffer (Buttons/Ensemble), Glenn Anderson (Snyder/Ensemble), John Pletka (Romeo/Ensemble), Joshua Bellamy (Specs/Ensemble), Adolpho Blaire (Bunsen/Ensemble), Lilly Tobin (Hannah/Ensemble), Marty Lauter (Tommy/Ensemble), Michael Carrier (Buddy/Ensemble) and Gerianne Pérez (Ensemble).
 
Ray Fellman (Music Director), Charles S. Kading (Production Manager and Scenic Designer),  Dan Efros (Lighting Designer), Shannon Slaton (Sound Designer), Kathleen P. Brown (Costume Designer), Mark Johnson (Production Stage Manager) and Amy M. Bertacini (Assistant Production Stage Manager) all deserve a mention for the work they have done to bring NEWSIES to life here on the Pickard Theater Stage in Brunswick.
 
At the end of NEWSIES Farcher (Jack) announced that MSMT is embarking on a capital campaign and he and his co-star, Fahrner (Katherine), proceeded to conduct a live auction with the opening night audience. After spirited bidding the cap that Jack wore during the show along with a pair of opening night cast party tickets was auctioned off for $1,000. This was fun to watch and Fahrner was hilarious on stage as each bid was increased. 
 
"NEWSIES" will run through August 26 at the Pickard Theater on the Bowdoin College Campus in Brunswick. Call the box office for tickets today at 207-725-8769. For more information, go to www.msmt.org
 
Before the show, Artistic Director, Curt Dale Clark, gave the audience a sneak peak into the musicals for the 2018 season.  The season will open with a production that has never appeared on the MSMT stage MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET.  The second show of the season will be a show staged here 11 years ago BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.  SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER is in the third slot during the summer of 2018 and SINGIN' IN THE RAIN will be the final show which was last seen at MSMT 21 years ago. Tickets are now on sale for the 2018 season and the Monday night special productions so contact the box office now to reserve your seats.  
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