The Community Theater of Greensboro’s new musical, Newsies, premiered on September 14, the day Hurricane Florence hit North Carolina. This alone makes the perfect excuse for the show’s opening night audience to be dead and lethargic, and the cast to be unenthused and stale. Yet, the exact opposite happened.
The cast was bouncing with energy and enthusiasm. The audience cheered and awed throughout the entire production and the show ended with a raving standing ovation. While Hurricane Florence raged outside, you would not have known, given the electricity and excitement in the room.
This reason is no doubt due to CTG’s Newsies talented cast and the hard work of its crew that ultimately paid off in the end.
The story takes place during the turn of the 20th century in New York City ,when Joseph Pulitzer raised the price of newspapers by 10 cents per newsboy. The main character, Jack Kelly, encourages the “newsies”–or newspaper delivery boys–to strike in protest. Along the way, he meets a journalist named Katherine Plummer who helps him try to expose the newspaper industry and secure better working conditions for all children.
The musical is inspired by the book, Children of the City: At Work and at Play by David Nasaw. The book was further adapted into a 1992 Disney movie, starring Christian Bale. In 2012, it was made into a Broadway Show with music and lyrics by Alan Menken and Jack Feldman. It is a story that covers the harsh realities of child labor during this time period.
However, the hard subject matter is somehow still left lighthearted and fun by the bright and exciting cast. The show’s music and overall tone is actually quite upbeat. The lighting was usually bright and cheery, and the characters were often quite optimistic given their poor circumstances. Patrons left the theater with a good history lesson, and a sunny disposition to follow them home.
There were some obvious standouts in the cast. One particularly great performance, was by Dru Loman who plays the main character, Jack Kelly. His charisma and prominent stage presence filled every scene. Despite the demanding role, given that he is in almost every scene, Loman still maintained the same amount of vigor and enthusiasm from start to finish. Great vocal control also made his singing voice very easy on the ears.
Overall the production design was simplistic but imperative to the show’s success. The overall color scheme consisted of warm toned browns and reds that made the small space feel very homey. The set smartly consisted of just a few blocks against a single backdrop that read, Newsies, for most of the show. This allowed for the set to be changed quickly into anything the story needed, and for there to be space for all of the singing and dancing.
These clever decisions made this community theater production feel more professional and expensive than it probably was. Not once does the show feel like watching just a bunch of kids play acting. Much of this can most likely be attributed to the director, Justin Bulla and choreographer, Gina Tate. The stage was small, but the smart blocking and choreography never made the space look cramped or cheap, despite there being a large number of talent on stage at one time. Twice, there were large dance numbers with multiple cast members, and yet the stage never looked too busy or disorganized.
The harmonies and melodies were also strong, thanks to the work of the musical director, Jeannine DuMond. The cast sounded great together, and their spectacular diction made everything very easy to understand. This was helpful since a lot of important information pertaining to the plot of the story was often sung.
To summarize, this was a very well performed and fun musical to watch on a Friday night. The crowd was heavily involved, as there were many cheers and awes throughout the entire show. The entire cast emitted such a strong energy that it was impossible to, as an audience member, not get swept up in. The audience left the theater smiling.
You can see the show September the 22nd, 27th, 38th and 29th at 7:30pm or September 22nd, 23rd, 29, and 30th at 2pm. Tickets are $15 to $30. Call 336-333-SHOW or visit ctgso.rog for tickets.