Flash review: Theatre Royale regional tour of ‘Newsies’
The regional tour of “Newsies” that is making a brief stop at Fresno’s Saroyan Theatre (a matinee performance on Saturday, July 13, which I just attended, and a final show at 8 p.m.) is notable in one outstanding way: the dancing.
The producers got the rights to do Christopher Gotelli’s original Broadway choreography, which is used by permission through resident choreographer Shanna VanDerwerker, and it’s spectacular. (Chasen Greenwood did the staging.) If, like me, you feasted on “Newsies” on Netflix, this is your chance to see a very fine version of the choreography in person. Co-directors Jay (Scott) King and Sarah Cleveland rounded up an impressive group of male dancers, including some excellent tappers, tumblers and “leapers,” and I appreciated getting to see my favorite signature “Newsies” moves (including that great moment where each dancer swings his newspaper bag over his shoulder and adjusts his cap with a quick snap of the wrist) done with considerable precision.
Here’s a quick appraisal of the rest of the show:
• The sound was awful during the first 40 minutes. (And before people start blaming the venue, remember that tours bring in their own sound equipment.) Dialogue was almost impossible to understand, and the percussionist (and sometimes the brass) often overpoweredw everything. Things got better by the time the big production number “Seize the Day” rolled around, but even in the second act, some of the vocals would suddenly turn mushy.
• The hardest actor to understand was Dillon Klena as the hero, Jack Kelly. Klena offered an enthusiastic New Yawk accent throughout, but his diction and the imperfect sound system made for some tough comprehension. Otherwise, Klena gave a charismatic but sometimes too frantic, effusive performance. Jack needs to be just a bit more cool.
• The scenic design — a metal structure that revolves — is effective (and very tall), and at one point, we had three stories worth of newsies coming at the audience singing away.
• The projection design is just so-so, and the scene where Jack paints Katherine’s portrait is disappointing. (I much prefer the Good Company version).
The Munro Review has no paywall but is financially supported by readers who believe in its non-profit mission of bringing professional arts journalism to the central San Joaquin Valley. You can help by signing up for a monthly recurring paid membership or make a one-time donation of as little as $3. All memberships and donations are tax-deductible.
• Chris Romero Sosa is a standout as Crutchie. Matthew Malecki, as the stalwart Davey, offers very strong vocals. The newsies themselves offer a lot of vigor.
• I just didn’t care for Kylie Molnar’s Katherine. She just seemed a little too twangy for me, like a heroine in a Western melodrama rather than a crusading New York heiress.
Overall, this production is not the level that we’re used to in Fresno for nationally touring shows (even non-Actors Equity ones), but it has some very rousing moments and a number of good qualities. And the dancing is first-rate. I finally got to see the official “Newsies” curtain call live, and that deserves a headline right there.