The Long Islander Review

‘Newsies’ – A Tale For The Times At Engeman Theater

August 2, 2018
By Janee Law

Engeman Theater’s newest production, “Newsies,” is filled with passion, inspiration and energy.

Last Thursday night at the Northport Village theater, Woodmere resident Tina Millman was among an audience that was captivated from start to finish. “I think they did a nice job with the scenery, everyone had a terrific voice and the dancing was great.”

The production takes the audience to lower Manhattan and back in time to the newsboys’ strike of 1899. The story follows charismatic newsboy Jack Kelly (portrayed by Dan Tracy), the strong and courageous leader of a ragged band of teenaged ‘newsies.’

“Newsies” is based on a 1992 Disney film of the same name that was written by Bob Tzudliker and Noni White.

Engeman’s production is directed by Igor Goldin and choreographed by Sandalio Alvarez. It features a score by eight-time Academy Award-winner Alan Menken and Jack Feldman that includes powerful numbers like “Carrying the Banner,” “Seize the Day,” “King of New York” and “Santa Fe.”

Last week’s performance had many in the audience grinning ear-to-ear from the start. “Carrying the Banner” sets the tone early on in the show’s runtime, delivering a number that’s action-packed and lively, and that gives the audience a taste of the high-energy performances to come.

Engeman’s ensemble takes things up a notch with exciting dance number “Seize the Day,” to which the crowd couldn’t help but clap along to.

Unlike the film, the musical takes a different approach to the role of the reporter by casting a woman, Whitney Winfield, who portrays Katherine. Winfield’s portrayal of the character is mesmerizing. She delivers a strong and empowering message regarding a woman’s drive to break into a male-dominated field in “Watch What Happens.”

Her journey parallels that of male lead, Jack Kelly, as both characters take a stand against an unjust society and fight for their dreams.
Audience member Alice Tibbert, of Queens, said after the show the two characters were her favorite, praising their chemistry and love story.

Tibbert also noted her satisfaction with the production, adding, “It was full of action, had fantastic dancing, and the songs were great.”
Tracy said after the show that Jack Kelly’s journey is inspirational.

“Jack is the leader, but I don’t think he sees himself as that, he’s like the glue,” Tracy said. “I think the cool part about the show is the journey he takes from a kid who doesn’t know how important he is to a man who understands that he has a voice and can make an impact in the world.”
Tracy added that “Santa Fe” is his favorite number to perform, but also enjoys “The World Will Know” and “Seize the Day,” during which the cast comes together and unites as a powerful front.

“That type of stuff with all the boys is so fun, and I think that a lot of the kids in this ensemble are going to be on Broadway very soon,” he said. “This cast is worth seeing.”

 

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Broadway World Review

NEWSIES Reigns ‘King of New York’ at the John W. Engeman Theater At Northport

July 27, 2018
By Jaime Zahl

The second act of Disney’s “Newsies” opens with a show-stopping number titled “King of New York,” in which the Newsies celebrate their newfound celebrity in the press. The cast and production team of the John W. Engeman Theater’s stunning production have equal reason to celebrate. Bringing to life a spectacle of pure entertainment, they earn the title of “King of New York” – or Long Island, rather.

The musical began as a venture at The Papermill Playhouse, featuring emerging talents such as Jeremy JordanBen Fankhauser and Kara Lindsay. When the Broadway run was announced, Mr. Fankhauser – who originated the role of Davey- recalled in an interview that it was meant to be a limited run of approximately 100 performances. No one anticipated the cult following that would emerge, with self-proclaimed “Fansies” making their pilgrimage to New York City to see the musical adaptation of the live-action Disney musical film that captured their imaginations in 1992 and the years to follow.

It’s fitting that the musical has now become a regional theatre favorite, giving those “Fansies” the opportunity to see the show in their own towns. Engeman’s production may be the first of “Newsies” on Long Island, but it certainly won’t be the last.

The remarkable magic of Engeman’s production is that it cleverly combines the lively expanded and revised score and new book of the Broadway production with the delightful campiness of the 1992 film while also tossing in a few original strokes of creativity.

Set in 1899, the musical – based on actual events – tells the story of Manhattan newsboys facing off against newspaper giant Joseph Pulitzer after he raises the cost of selling “papes.”

BWW Review: NEWSIES Reigns 'King of New York' at the John W. Engeman Theater At Northport
Dan Tracy as Jack Kelly

Leading the charge is Dan Tracy as the charismatic Jack Kelly. While many fans will find it hard to put Jeremy Jordan‘s tour de force in the Broadway incarnation out of their minds, Mr. Tracy shapes his own interpretation of the character with a balance of wise cracking charm and fighting spirit. Although it is clear his talents as an actor outshine his vocal abilities, Mr. Tracy still gives each number his all – especially in the conclusion of Act II with the powerful “Santa Fe.”

By his side is newcomer and brains of the newsboy strike Davey (Mike Cefalo), Davey’s young brother Les (Zachary Podair), and the tragically innocent handicap Crutchie (Nick Martinez.)

Mike Cefalo plays Davey with true vitality and provides some of the strongest vocals in the show, highlighted in the crowd pleasing “Seize the Day.”

While Mr. Podair’s Les certainly has pep and shows his promise as a performer, the character is written with such an overindulgence of cute that his presence becomes more of a hindrance than an asset.

BWW Review: NEWSIES Reigns 'King of New York' at the John W. Engeman Theater At Northport
Nick Martinez as Crutchie

Meanwhile, Mr. Martinez comes close to stealing the show with his palpable vulnerability and wide-eyed hopefulness. His song “Letter From the Refuge,” written for the national tour and cemented in regional and community productions, is truly heartwrenching.

Fans of the film may not remember the character of Katherine Plumber, the plucky reporter covering the strike for The New York Sun. A hybrid of reporter Bill Pullman and Davey’s sister from the film, she provides a voice for the newsies in the headlines while also serving as a love interest for Jack. Whitney Winfield is perfectly suited for the role, shining brightly in “Watch What Happens,” a reporter’s anthem for writer’s block.

BWW Review: NEWSIES Reigns 'King of New York' at the John W. Engeman Theater At Northport
Whitney Winfield as Katherine Plumber

Rounding out the cast is none other than Mr. Joseph Pulitzer himself, played menacingly by Tom Lucca in a brilliant, timely display of power thirsting authority. The musical also features the impressive Allyson Kaye Daniel as vaudeville songstress turned motherly mentor for the newsies.

However, audiences will likely remember the production for the sheer athleticism and skill exhibited by the chorus of newsboys. Although one could argue there are one too many choreographed reprises of the opening song “Carrying the Banner,” each and every leap, turn and backflip is awe-inspiring.

This is especially true in “King of New York.” Although originally presented as a tap number, choreographer Sandalio Alvarez breathes new life into the scene with dance breaks featuring Stomp-like moves with spoons and pots and pans.

The entire creative team is top-notch with both beautiful and movement-friendly period costumes by Kurt Alger and the impressive technical execution of Zach Blane‘s lighting design and Laura Shubert‘s sound design.

Additionally, scenic designer DT Willis has created a jungle-gym of rooftops and fire escapes to bring turn-of-the-century Manhattan to life on stage, bringing Igor Goldin‘s vision to life and complimenting his staging.

While Newsies may not be a profound experience for the high-brow set looking for the next “The Band’s Visit,” it is certainly a romping good time. Engeman’s production will surely ignite a repeat of opening night’s thunderous standing ovation for its entire run.

 

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The Observer Review

Newsies is a smash at the Engeman Theater

July 26, 2018
By David Ambro

For years people have been telling me to raise the price of The Observer from 75 cents to a dollar, and as I sat watching Newsies at the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport on press night Saturday, July 21, it made me think twice.

When Jack Kelly and Katherine Plumjber rallied the child labor of New York City to a strike that brought management to its knees though, I walked out knowing 75 cents it will be.

When I go to the John W. Engeman Theater to review a show, it is always with an eye toward finding the things I like and highlighting that. There is nothing I didn’t like about Newsies. It was terrific.

The Engeman Theater is running a streak of consecutive shows that have had to be extended due to popular demand. Well, this should be the fourth in a row. If you haven’t purchased a ticket yet, hurry to the box office because this is the Engeman at its best.

Dan Tracy as Jack Kelly, Whitney Winfield as Katherine Plumber, Nick Martinez, a veteran on the Engeman stage, as Crutchie, Allyson Kaye Daniel as Medda Larkin, Tom Lucca as Joseph Pulitzer, Mike Cefalo as Davey and young Zachary Podair as his 10-year-old brother Les bring a deep cast of wonderful singing talent to this Broadway classic. Add to that the acrobatic and athletic Newsies dancers and this is among the best shows the Engeman has ever staged.

Mr. Tracy as Jack Kelly and Ms. Winfield as Ms. Plumber are shining stars, while Ms. Daniel as Ms. Larkin in her one solo song “That’s Rich,” is a hit, and Mr. Martinez, as Crutchie is wonderful. And, when they all join voices with a chorus that numbers more than 25 people at times, this is an Engeman show that lives up to that more than decade long mantra of bringing Broadway to Main Street.

What is also tremendous about this show is that it delivers a spirited happy ending to a dramatization of a real-life event with a powerful social message – the strength and importance of unionized labor. Based on the Disney Film written by Bob Tzudliker and Noni White originally produced on Broadway by Disney Theatrical Productions, Newsies is based on the true story about the newsboy strike of July 20, 1899.

When newspaper publishers Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst raise the price newsies have to pay for the papers they sell – from 50 to 60 cents per 100 in the show – the newsboys organize and strike, led by Louis Ballatt, the inspiration for Jack Kelly, and David Simons, the inspiration for Davey. When Pulitzer and Hearst refuse to concede to the newsies’ demands, a rally is held by child workers at historic Irving Hall, a 130-year-old theater built in 1888 at 15th Street and Irving Place near Union Square in Manhattan. More than 2,000 young workers fill the theater and 3,000 more gather outside, which compels Pulitzer and Hearst to relent.

There were some special moments of this show for me, ones that added to the enchantment. After my daughter, Sophie, saw Newsies on Broadway with a few of her friends when they were kids, she would walk around singing the lyrics to “Seize the Day.” It does that to you: “Open the gate and seize the day. Don’t be afraid and don’t delay. Nothing can break us. No one can make us give our rights away. Arise and seize the day.”

So when the cast of the Engeman, led by Tracy, Cefalo and the Newsies chorus, broke into Seize the Day in Act I and again in the reprise in Act II, it sent a chill down my spine, flashbacks to Sophie at the kitchen table as a little kid belting it out. I loved that. So did the audience at the Engeman, who responded with uproarious applause.

“King of New York” featuring Cefalo, Podair, Winfield and the Newsies chorus and Martinez as Crutchie in “Letter from the Refuge” were also among my favorites, Broadway-quality performances on the Northport stage. In the Engeman production of In the Heights, Martinez was Sonny. He is an endearing character in Newsies, offering a voice of social commentary.

Mr. Lucca, who is an especially good Pulitzer when he is interacting with Jack Kelly, is also an Engeman veteran, having performed as Utterson in Jekyll & Hyde and John Hancock in 1776. Ms. Winfield makes her debut at the Engeman in Newsies but she is a veteran to the show, having performed Katherine last year at Tuacahn in Utah, where she also played Fiona in Shrek.

While his older brother Davey is key to the story, and Cefalo is a star of the show, Zachary Podair as 10-year-old Les is another endearing Newsies character, in one of the deepest and most abundant collections of talent ever assembled on the Engeman stage. This is Zach’s Engeman debut and it is the highlight of his acting resume, but a role that he performs on par with the talent of the stars around him.

 

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Times of Huntington-Northport Review

Engeman Theater champions the little guy with ‘Newsies’

July 24, 2018
By Melissa Arnold

This summer, the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport is transporting audiences to a New York City of long ago in its production of “Newsies.” This feel good, family-friendly show, which opened last Thursday, is thoroughly entertaining and will have you rooting for the cast from start to finish.

The cast of ‘Newsies’

“Newsies”’ journey to the stage is an interesting one — the show is based on the 1992 Disney movie of the same name, and made its Broadway debut in 2012, where it won two Tony Awards. The book was written by Harvey Fierstein, with music by Alan Menken (“Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin”) and lyrics by Jack Feldman.

Both the film and musical are loosely inspired by the real-life events of the Newsboys Strike of 1899. The newspaper business was booming in 1898 while the United States was involved in the Spanish-American War. But when the war ended in September of 1898, so did the clamor for news. And this is where “Newsies” begins.

In the summer of 1899, a ragtag group of Lower Manhattan paperboys are lamenting the slow news climate, and famed publisher Joseph Pulitzer is brainstorming ways to boost his profits. At that time, newsies purchased their own papers from the publishers to sell on the street. Pulitzer decides to hike the prices the newsies pay, and since most of the kids are poor, homeless or trying to support their families, the backlash is immediate.

Whitney Winfield as Katherine Plumber in a scene from ‘Newsies’

Led by the charismatic and scrappy 17-year-old Jack Kelly, the kids form a union and declare a strike. The show chronicles the uphill battle Jack and his friends face to be taken seriously and shines a light on unfair child labor practices of the era. At the core of “Newsies” is the power of resilience, community and standing up for a cause — and that spirit is as relevant today as it was then.

Under the direction of Igor Goldin, this production’s cast features a number of actors making their Engeman debut. Among them are Dan Tracy, whose confidence and comfort on stage give his portrayal of Jack Kelly a lovable swagger. Tracy does a great job balancing Jack’s tough guy exterior with a more hidden tender side, which shines through in songs such as “Santa Fe” and “Something to Believe In.”

Mike Cefalo and Zachary Podair, who play the rookie paperboy Davey and his kid brother Les, are also new to the Engeman. The pair have a natural chemistry and strong voices — listen for Cefalo in “The World Will Know” and Podair in “Watch What Happens.” As the youngest member of the cast, Podair is charming and funny, and he’s sure to have a bright future ahead in acting.

Whitney Winfield, in the role of Katherine Plumber, certainly holds her own with a big voice in “King of New York” and “Something to Believe In.” Her character is loosely based off of reporter Nellie Bly, who was a trailblazer for working women and female journalists. Winfield plays the role with a contagious positive spirit and moxie.

Dan Tracy as Jack Kelly in a scene from ‘Newsies’

The ensemble is every bit as enjoyable as the main cast. Worth noting is their incredible talent for dance — choreographer Sandalio Alvarez and dance captain Claire Avakian are to be applauded for their hard work. “Newsies” is full of pirouettes, backflips, cartwheels, jumps and more tricks that will blow you away. Even the curtain call is an impressive showcase for their skill, where you can tell the cast is enjoying the show as much as we are.

The double-decker set designed by DT Willis depicts a Manhattan street, with metal staircases, a fire escape and a cityscape background. The set is multifunctional, transforming easily from a rooftop to the city square, a deli, theater and office with some quick work from the cast, who also functions as stage crew.

With every show at the Engeman, it’s the little touches at the theater that make the experience extra special. Show up early to enjoy one of several “Newsies”-themed cocktails, listen to ragtime or put yourself on the front page with their crafty wooden newspaper prop. Feel free to ask the staff to take a photo — they’re easy to find in old-time flat caps and suspenders. Be sure to check out the playbill for some fascinating information on the show’s historical background.

 

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Newsday Review

‘Newsies’: Dancing that’s above the fold

July 24, 2018
By Barbara Schuler

In this age of screen-to-stage musicals, “Newsies” is remarkable because the movie it was based on was an out-and-out flop.

But thanks to video, the 1992 film starring Christian Bale developed a cult following, leading Disney to create a musical that ran for two years after its 2012 Broadway debut, winning Tonys for Alan Menken’s score and Christopher Gattelli’s choreography.

Now making its Long Island debut at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport,  the musical is a rough retelling of the newsboys strike of 1899, a David-and-Goliath struggle pitting a ragtag bunch of tenement urchins against Joseph Pulitzer, the powerful publisher of the New York World. Facing declining circulation, he forces his young hawkers to pay more for their “papes” (period lingo), sparking a rebellion that ultimately led to revisions in the city’s child labor laws.

The Engeman cast, under the fast-paced direction of Igor Goldin, will win you over with its inexhaustible energy and unbridled exuberance, managing to make you forget the flaws, some of which have been with the show all along. The closest thing to a memorable song is the celebratory “King of New York,” and perhaps the amusing “Watch What Happens,” in which Katherine, a character modeled on famed journalist Nellie Bly, sings of her writer’s block. Much of the other music feels repetitious, not helped by a few too many reprises, and while Dan Tracy has more than enough charisma to sell his role as the newsboys’ crusading leader Jack Kelly, vocally he struggles at times.

That can also be said for most of the men in the cast, clearly chosen primarily for their dance skill, which is considerable — a good thing since they rarely get a break from the relentlessly athletic (and again, repetitive) routines thrown at them by choreographer Sandalio Alvarez. Especially impressive is Nick Martinez as Crutchie, who has some cool moves despite having to manage them while maneuvering a crutch. Other highlights in the show (along with DT Willis’ set and Kurt Alger’s costumes) include Mike Cefalo, as the boy with the brains, Zachary Podair as his scene-stealing younger brother, and Whitney Winfield, in lovely voice as the spirited Katherine.

Of course, the most frightening man in “Newsies” is Pulitzer, played by Tom Lucca with enough menace to make me shudder just a bit (full disclosure: I used to work for his grandson). But he was a brilliant editor, and this musical could have used one.

 

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The Theatre Guide Review

Newsies – John W. Engeman Theater

July 24, 2018
By Kristen Weyer

Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Disney’s Newsies is now playing at the John W. Engeman Theater. Get ready for a magical, and inspiring trip back in time to the turn of the 20th century.  This entertaining and uplifting musical boasts music from Alan Menken, lyrics by Jack Feldman and a book by Harvey Fierstein. Based on the actual events of the Newsboys Strike of 1899, this wonderful show will capture your imagination with its intricacies, and tug at your heart strings with its brilliant score. Directed here by Igor Goldin, Newsies is a must see for the whole family.

As the lights rise so too does the mist of a faraway morning on the roofs of New York City.  Poor, young, orphaned and homeless are the boys sleeping on the skyline.  With each other for family, they eek out their meager existence selling newspapers to any and all who will buy, earning them their name: the Newsies. The leader of this rag-tag pack is the clever and persuasive Jack Kelly (superbly played by Dan Tracy). When the newspapers of New York, led by Joseph Pulitzer (Tom Lucca) raise their wholesale prices on the Newsies the struggling boys have had enough.  Jack, together with newcomer Davey (Mike Cefalo) inspire the Newsies to form a union, go on strike and fight for the rights of the children workers of New York City.

This wonderful cast produces non-stop energy and entertainment from beginning to end. Characterization, chemistry and charisma flow from every angle of the stage.  Brilliant choreography by Sandalio Alvarez is energetically executed.

Dan Tracy as Jack Kelly will blow you away, pure and simple.  His vocals impress straight from his stunning opening number of “Santa Fe” all the way through to the end. Tracy’s characterization of Jack as he turns from a boy into a young man throughout the show is excellent. His charming grin, and the rakish twinkle which always seems to be hiding a joke, is intermixed with his maturing words, and actions. He is the perfect Jack Kelly.

Dan Tracy (Jack Kelly). Photo by Michael DeCristofaro.

Whitney Winfield is superb as Katherine Plumber.  Her beautiful voice and spunky attitude will bring a permanent smile to your face.  Mike Cefalo is an excellent Davey. Wonderful vocals and fantastic facial expressions bring his character to life.  Zachary Podair is terrific as Davey’s little brother Les.  His charm is palpable, and he adds delightful humor.

Tom Lucca is phenomenal as Joseph Pulitzer. He executes the strong, and frequently ruthless, character with calculated precision.  His excellent vocals are clear and crisp, yet melodic. You’ll love to hate him.

The intricate multi-level set by designer DT Willis works perfectly for this production.  Accurate historical costumes by Kurt Alger, and props by Suzanne Mason add dimension. Zach Blane’s brilliant lighting design, and Laura Shubert’s excellent sound design added a layer of magic to the production. Music Director Alexander Rovang and the entire orchestra performed exquisitely.

Whitney Winfield (Katherine Plumber). Photo by Michael DeCristofaro.

With power, excitement, emotion and romance, Newsies will appeal to a plethora of tastes. “The Bottom Line” is to go “Watch What Happens”, and you might leave feeling like the “King of New York”, or at least with “Something to Believe In”. Either way, Newsies is definitely not to be missed.

 

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