Saw Newsies last Friday night with the Twins. IT WAS AMAZING AND IT REALLY IGNITED THE FEELS, FOR SEVERAL REASONS. There's nothing quite like watching a musical live and I never understood why people disliked them. To me, they're the ultimate kind of performance -- performers, for several days, need to stay in character, sing well, dance well, and make no mistakes. All this, while being face-to-face with a large audience whose reactions you can easily misconstrue as criticism. There are so many difficult elements to consider while performing in a musical and I am forever in awe of people who do it and do it well.
ANYWAY, back to the show. I first discovered Newsies in its OG 1992 film form, when I went on a Christian Bale marathon way back when. Although it was critically panned and effectively kept Senor Bale from performing in musicals forever, I actually quite liked this box office bomb for what it was -- a charming, choreography-charged musical about an adorable and scrappy group of boys who just wanted to make an honest living. Plus, the music was by Alan Menken -- what's not to love? Not being professional singers or dancers, the young cast did enough, in a High School Musical sort of way, to make the musical work (interestingly, it was directed by Kenny Ortega of HSM and the Descendants fame -- clearly, the Razzie meant nothing to him lol). A few years ago, Disney decided to make a stage musical of it, because Newsies had amassed a cult following of people who came to their senses over the years and they wanted to make money off of them. Because the standards of musical theater had evolved since then, a lot had to be changed -- lyrics were re-written, songs were rearranged, plot threads were revised, and the dances were almost completely redone. Casting adults in the roles of children may have put off some people, but it all paid off -- the musical got nominated for several Tony awards and managed to get the one for choreography (which is mindblowingly difficult to pull off WHILE singing -- it made perfect sense to cast adults lmao).
I had recently gotten into the OST of the musical recently (TY, Supergirl and Jeremy Jordan) and I became obsessed with the songs. I guess my Bale-goggles and the homoerotic tension of the 1992 movie got in the way of fully comprehending the lyrics because I do not remember being hit in the feels like this! They weren't just catchy anymore, they were uplifting and meaningful. The rewrite for Seize the Day is the best example -- apart from it being a rousing number capturing the passion of their baby union, it also included a verse that talked about standing up for their peers (no, their BROTHERS) who couldn't join them, however valid or selfish their reasons were. As someone who came from an activist university, I always disliked how exclusionary political parties were when it came to their activism. "Our way", "we started this", "join us or be a traitor" were just some of the choice sentiments that they embodied. After hearing so much of this disappointing, self-serving and negative propaganda before, it was refreshing to listen to something more posiive and inclusive.
Given all that, my expectations were set low for Newsies MNL. Don't get me wrong -- I love watching local productions of US musicals and I have enjoyed almost everything I've watched. But I've seen several productions here that would have been perfect, had the actors been more consistent in their singing and in affecting their character's way of speaking. Normally, you would have a few actors struggle with these two things and then a few who excel at them, leading to a good but uneven overall performance. Newsies is a story that is deeply rooted in 1800s working class New York so getting the little details right (the accents, the mannerisms etc) was just as important as dressing the actors in the right costumes. But I'm glad to say that regardless of how low or high my expectations were, the cast SLAYED the fuck out of this musical -- it was perfect in almost every way. It didn't matter that they were Asian-looking and that it took some suspension of belief to accept some of the guys as teens, they WERE news boys of 1899 New York city, with cheerleader-like acrobatics and soaring vocals. And for 1,600 php per ticket, front row and center? Investment returned, a thousand times over. I don't think I've ever walked out of a local performance feeling this satisfied and impressed since Avenue Q.
(Again, another super long entry. I need to practice restraint *thinks back to 1st year creative writing classes*)
Here's to your lovely eyes.