These newspaper-toting ragamuffins have done it.
Pitted against a high-profile Disney musical that promised to be a highlight – if not the highlight – of Music Theatre Wichita’s 2017 season, the cast of “Newsies” did not disappoint.
“Newsies,” based on the 1992 Disney movie (which in turn was based on the real-life Newsboys Strike of 1899), tells the story of a ragtag group of newsboys who take a stand against corporate powers-that-be, who want to raise the price of papes (as the newsies would say).
And what a story it is.
Set against a lovely backdrop of New York scenery – brick walls and fire escapes aplenty – this high-energy production never lets up.
The bulk of the responsibility for this of course falls to choreographer Brian J. Marcum, whose work was instrumental in keeping the pace of this story humming along.
Maize High grad Trevor McChristian, a rising senior at North Carolina’s Elon University, deftly leads this cast of 75 in the role of newsie union leader Jack Kelly.
The young McChristian commands the stage and plays a fine Jack – a dancing Jack, at that. In most other productions of “Newsies,” Jack shuffles to the sidelines when the newsies come out to dance.
McChristian is as capable of a dancer as any, which is refreshing. On a side note, it’s rather unfortunate that Trevor Michael Schmidt (who plays Crutchy, Jack’s best friend) is hobbled with a crutch the whole time. By the end of the play, we see Schmidt is quite a capable dancer himself.
Though Marcum’s choreography is his own unique spin off of the original Broadway choreography by Christopher Gattelli, there are still the signature barrel jumps, pirouettes and aerial splits “Newsies” is known for.
Melissa Steadman Hart (who was a swing in the First National Tour of “Newsies”) is charming as Katherine Plumber. Her solo, “Watch What Happens,” is a refreshing break from the carpe-diem gusto of nearly every other number in the production.
In this production, there are six female newsies – which, for those familiar with the show, is a welcome surprise.
▪ The lighting design for “Newsies” was spot-on – a sea of blues amid the amber lights emanating from windows on stage made for a very pleasing visual experience.
▪ Props to MTW for finding an authentic 1850s printing press to use on stage during the climactic “Once and For All” in Act 2. MTW found the printing press on Ebay – and it was coming from Oklahoma, so a caravan drove down to pick up the press.
▪ AnnEliza Canning-Skinner, playing the vaudeville theater owner Medda Larkin, stuns during her solo, “That’s Rich.” It’s a shame she doesn’t see the stage more often.
▪ 10-year-old Kilian McGaffin, playing the youngest newsie, Les, is adorable – and an impressive actor for his age. If he keeps it up, I can see a bright future for Kilian.
“Newsies” is relentlessly positive and life-affirming. It’s a fitting cap to MTW’s 2017 season, and an impressive showcase of MTW’s athletic dancers at their prime.
See it. You have an extra weekend to do so.
What: A dance-intensive musical based on the 1992 Disney film of the same name. The musical will be the last of Music Theatre Wichita’s 2017 season.
Where: Century II Concert Hall, 225 W. Douglas
When: 8 p.m. Aug. 11, 2 and 8 p.m. Aug. 12, 2 and 7 p.m. Aug. 13, 7:30 p.m. Aug. 16 and 17, 8 p.m. Aug. 18, 2 and 8 p.m. Aug. 19, 2 p.m. Aug. 20