Review: Aurora’s Newsies Makes Headlines

by Jody Key – Managing Editor

“Extra! Extra! Read all about it!” This was the cry in the late 1800s as newsboys across the nation eked out a living hocking the evening news. In 1899, a strike of newsboys in New York City and the surrounding areas almost completely shut down distribution of Joseph Pulitzer’s World and William Randolph Hearst’s Journal. This sparked a movement that protested unequal treatment of the working class and shed a light on unfair child labor practices.

In 1994, Disney produced a feature film based on the strike entitled Newsies. The directorial debut of Kenny Ortega, with original songs by Alan Menken and J.A.C. Redford. The movie starred Christian Bale, David Moscow, Bill Pullman, Robert Duvall, and Ann Margaret. This was Disney’s first fully live-action film. The movie flopped at the box office but later gained a cult following on home video.

Fast forward to 2012: Newsies opened on Broadway, received 8 Tony nominations, and won the awards for Best Original Score and Best Choreography. The show closed in 2014 but continued it’s journey with a national tour shortly after. Newsies recently became available for license by regional theaters and is the opening show for Aurora Theatre’s 23rd season.

Newsies is a highly physical show which requires not only vigorous, vibrant vocals but also amazing athletic ability and A+ acting. The Aurora Theatre assembled a cast who possess the whole package. The ensemble of dancers amaze the eye, the powerful vocals caress the ear, and the cast’s commitment will leave you speechless.

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of Aurora’s show is the ethnic diversity of the cast. Similar to Hamilton, this show concerns immigrants and their children who come to America to make a living. While Hamilton takes place nearly 100 years prior to Newsies, Newsies explores the same, timeless issues in its own, unique light. While the actual newsies of that day descended from European immigrants, as depicted by the original Broadway production, the Aurora’s production chose to cast based on ability, not race. The cast better represents today’s America. We are even treated to two female newsies, and my research indicates that there were indeed females selling “papes” during this time.

The lead performance of Jack Kelly is expertly performed by Greg Kamp. An alum of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Camp has an extensive resume of work in theater and television. His portrayal of Jack Kelly is powerful, believable, and leaves the audience wanting more.

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Adrianna Trachell brings her beautiful vocals and accomplished dance abilities to the role of Katherine Plumber. She holds her own with the ensemble while tap-dancing in the show-stopping number “King of New York”, and the chemistry between her and Jack is undeniable. Adrianna is an alum of Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University.

While Jack Kelly may be the mouthpiece of the strike, he takes direction and advice from his new companion Davey, played by Marcello Audino. Marcello is homegrown having received his training from the Gainesville Theatre Alliance. His charismatic performance as the likable Davey delights the audience. Davey, a rookie newsie, is helping to support his family due to his father’s recent layoff. He befriends Jack Kelly and is the brains behind the strike. Marcello’s vocals at the start of the banner song “Seize the Day” showcase a voice that is as charming as his whimsical smile. Keep an eye out for this up-and-coming young talent in the future!

What is Newsies without Davey’s adorable little brother? The part of Les is triple cast with three accomplished young actors: Zach Kubler (who also aspires to pursue a career in welding or neurosurgery), Vinny Montague (who most recently played Young Tarzan at the Atlantic Lyric Theater), and Jackson Williams (who is making his stage debut and has experience in short films and commercials). Each of these boys brings Les to life as the ever-so-cute youngest newsie (think Gavroche from Les Mis).

Hot off the presses, Aurora’s Newsies runs from July 19th-September 2nd at Aurora Theatre, then moves to Atlanta Lyric Theatre from October 19th-November 4th. For tickets, visit http://www.auroratheatre.com/

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