Disney’s 1992 film Newsies was not an initial hit. Who knows why? Legions of fans felt its true life was always on the stage. Twenty years later, after some re-working with a truly remarkable new book by Harvey Fierstein, Disney’s Newsies found its life as an unprecedented Broadway hit in 2012. And now, Incline’s soaring production brings the seminal cult-hit to the Queen City in a truly glorious kick-off to the 2022 summer theatre season.
Fierstein’s quick-smart book and Menken and Feldman’s rousing score is given full throttle treatment by Incline’s adept team. It is often forgotten that Newsies is based on a true story of real newsboys who took on the powerful and elite in the newspaper business demanding rights for the working class in New York (and ultimately, everywhere). The story alone is the stuff of great musical theatre. Thankfully, there is not a single vocalist on Incline’s stage that isn’t in top voice and emotionally engaged. Music directed by Damon Stevens. In fact, the ensemble sound is powerfully mixed against the backing tracks. (Yes, there is unfortunately no live orchestra).
The newsboys, led by the charismatic Jack Kelly (Peter Neureuthe –a gorgeous voice), are appropriately spunky. It is endlessly easy to root for this rag tag group at every turn. Neureuther’s Act One Closer “Santa Fe” is indeed a highlight. Katherine Plumber – the story’s female heroine – is performed by the outstanding Grace Marie Rusnica. Her powerful vocals and smart interpretation of text rivals Kara Lindsay (Broadway’s original Katherine) in a tour de force performance. Standing toe-to-toe with Jack is no easy task to ask of an actress, but no one doubts her for a second.
Other highlights include Kyndra Dyanne’s Jefferies’ performance as Medda Larkin and her rousing rendition of “That’s Rich”; as well as the charming and tear-inducing performance of Evan Blust as Crutchie (Blust’s “Letter from the Refuge” is perfectly tender).
Director Eric Byrd clearly understands that the pace of this show is vital to its storytelling. Byrd’s maneuvering of scene changes using Alan Menken’s many reprises serves to keep the show away from dreaded blackouts, and instead constantly in motion. Newsies is a rousing dance show and needs its space. The set (Brett Bowling) and lighting design (Denny Reed) stay appropriately at a minimum to allow for that balance. It should be noted that thanks to the Sound team including designer Jamie Steele, every lyric was clear – every line crisp.
Theatregoers looking to kick off summer with a big bright Broadway musical performed incredibly well need only make their way to Price Hill – Incline Theatre’s Disney’s Newsies is a must-see.