I’m a pretty regular theater goer. I work right in New York City and I take advantage of the fact that I can buy some relatively discounted tickets and see a show after work. I also write local theater reviews for a theater website so that’s another way I get to experience theater. My theater foundation is pretty much based on a few classes I took in college, an enthusiastic theater professor who inspired me to get very involved with our own theater, and my own curiousity and research.
When I think of a show like Newsies, a show that makes so much money without discounted tickets and has a built in fanbase, right off the bat it’s a show I don’t necessary like. It’s based on a movie. Where’s the originality in that? (I say this quite a bit.) But then I saw the Paper Mill try out and it was amazing. A huge improvement on the movie. And even though there was a little bit of a twist at the end of the show, most of the story is predictable. You sort of know what’s going to happen relatively early into the story. (This is, of course, true if you have seen the movie.) But despite a storyline we have seen over and over again, I felt enthused and energized and I’ve come to realize that is what LIVE theater is all about. The feeling you have while it’s being performed in front of you, and the lasting effect it has once you are walking down the street back to your train or car or wherever.
So maybe Newsies won’t change anyone’s life or be the most articulate show to ever hit Broadway. Maybe it will be the show that tourists flock to. But so what? People are going. Kids are going to experience theater for the first time with some hot talented dancing guys and a great love story. Humming the anthems for the rest of their work or school days. It’s a show parents can see with their kids without feeling embarrassed. (Oh hi Mom, remember that time we went to see Rent?)
Like any other form of entertainment, theater is a chance to escape the real world. Just like when you are choosing the next book you want to read… it’s the same way with theater. Do you want to go for the classic (The Phantom of the Opera), the innovative indie hit (Once the Musical) or the family favorite with tons of dancing and big songs (Newsies)? It really all depends on your mood and may not have anything to do with a review at all.
For me, reviews and critiques present a challenge. They either a) get me pumped because their excitement is infectious or b) makes me wonder if my own experience and knowledge will make me see a show in a different way.
We all have different reasons for embracing the arts. To me, it just matters if we are embracing the arts at all.
On that note, here are a few of my favorite lines from last night’s reviews:
Disney has unveiled its finest fairy tale in over a decade, a fairy tale that, for once, doesn’t concern royalty or implied-royalty or peasants aspiring to royalty. There’s enormous magnetism in this show, both for children and the grown-ups who brought them, and why not?
From The New York Times:
[Kara Lindsay] also has the show’s best and most atypical song. It’s called “Watch What Happens,” and it is about, of all things, writer’s block, and trying to find the words to capture momentous events. Mr. Feldman’s lyrics are spot-on, while the melody reminds us just how charming a composer Mr. Menken (who did “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Little Mermaid” for Disney) can be. It also provides a sorely needed oasis of relief from all that extra! extra! enthusiasm.
From The Bergen Record:
The centerpiece of the show, which has been given a modest physical production – the main scenery pieces are three huge towers with stairs and platforms – is the dancing, choreographed by Christopher Gattelli.
The newsboy-chorus numbers are big and athletic, with great leaps and awesome acrobatics, performed by first-rate dancers. The routines are impressive, but most of them are similar and, after a while, déjà vu sets in.
From All That Chat:
Not that anything else about Newsies suggests going the extra mile: It fills a niche and a checkbox, but otherwise leaves itself and you empty. Not that the majority of audiences will or even should care; if all they want is safe entertainment for ages six to 96, Disney provides it better than anyone and this is as harmless a product as any. But for anyone wondering, for whatever unthinkable reason, whether this show makes any news, the headline is, at its most optimistic, “Eh.”
From Entertainment Weekly:
Assuming Bale’s role as head newsie Jack Kelly on Broadway, Jeremy Jordan (survivor of the recent Bonnie & Clyde) proves he doesn’t need anyone wandering into his sight lines to be an explosive presence on stage. Blessed with a crystalline voice, Jordan conveys a rare combination of masculine swagger and vulnerability. He gets a worthy foil and love interest in aspiring reporter Katherine (charming newcomer Kara Lindsay), one of several smart additions to the film’s story by playwright Harvey Fierstein.