It’s 1899. You don’t have Twitter, Buzzfeed or or that one aunt on Facebook dispersing the latest headlines.
You rely on the daily newspaper — written by reporters, printed in a press and delivered by young scrungy boys with adorable hats. Rather than push notifications on your phone, these boys push physical papers early in the morning trying to make a living. These boys are “newsies” — boys who went on strike for two weeks due to unfair wages. The events inspired a fictional movie and, more impressively, a high-soaring, knee-slapping musical that is playing at the Cadillac Palace Theatre for the first week of August.
To say that every Chicagoan should flock to this production while it’s in town is an understatement. Disney’s Newsies has a historic, valuable message that children can enjoy (nice one, Disney), but it also has an astounding cast made up of young men who can dance better than anyone on Dancing with the Stars.
Jack Kelly (Joey Barreiro) is a 17-year-old lad living on the streets of New York with big dreams of heading west and leaving the dirty city behind. When publishing companies raise the price of newspapers for the “newsies,” Jack convinces his pals to form a union and go on strike. Barreiro depicts the charismatic leader with extra bravado and, despite his short stature, he stands up tall against Joseph Pulitzer (Steve Blanchard) — the antagonist of the story looking to make an extra buck while squashing the dreams of young orphan boys.
The acting, while impressive and enrapturing, came in second to the jaw-dropping dancing. The ensemble of about 20 young men jumping, flipping and tapping made sure the musical never had a dull moment. Unthinkable choreography from Christopher Gattelli paired with the talent of some of the best male dancers in the country kept the audience whipping their heads from left to right, eager to take in every move, perching high on their seats and curiously gazing at just how high these men can jump.
Simple scenery made up of rotating metal rafters gave the play another dynamic element which allowed creative freedom to flow with the choreography. Ensemble members climbed the rafter stairs, swung themselves around the pillars and moved the rafters around the stage to create a simple yet fast-moving component that added the final touches to an intriguing play.
From the historical relevance to the parent-approved message of banding together to fight for what’s fair, Newsies provides a well-rounded musical. The production holds onto the historical significance, but also delivers a comedic, dancing-infused musical that delights audience members of all ages.
Disney’s Newsies runs through August 7 at Cadillac Palace Theatre (151 W. Randolph). Tickets are $37 to $97 and are available at broadwayinchicago.com.