By Philip Pearce
THIS YEAR’S BIG SUMMER MUSICAL at PacRep is a slick, excitingly watchable, no-holds-barred version of Disney’s Newsies.
Inspired by an 1899 Manhattan newsboys’ strike that became an early landmark in the struggle for youth labor reforms, Harvey Fierstein’s book moves with the relentless speed and rattle of a BMT interborough express train.
Brilliantly directed by Susanne Burns, an all singin’, all dancin’ cast of nearly 50 includes visiting New Yorker Mikey Perdue as a brooding dynamic guy named Jack Kelly, who’s an amalgamation of several leaders of the turn-of-the-20th century strike action.
Love blooms when a pretty and tough-minded reporter named Katherine, played by Lara Devlin, starts nosing aggressively into Kelly’s involvement in the labor unrest at the New York Evening Journal. Turns out, in Fierstein’s script but not in reality, she’s the rebellious daughter of Kelly’s nemesis, the Journal’s publisher, Joseph Pulitzer. He’s acted with a lot of not unlikable authority by Stephen Poletti in a week when his family seems to have an extended hold on local theatre (see my Hello, Dolly! review.)
The big, raucous corps of downtrodden but dedicated newsboys sing and dance with a coordinated push and power reminiscent of West Side Story. One of them is an amazing, elementary school moppet named Adam Angel, who looks to be about seven years old and belts out bits of Alan Menken music and Jack Feldman lyrics along with some show-stopping tap steps and back flips that will have you gasping.
It’s big, loud–earplugs should be considered–memorable family entertainment happening weekends at the Golden Bough through July 28th.