Theater Review: 'Newsies' -- 3.5 stars
When "Newsies" premiered at New Jersey's Paper Mill Playhouse back in September, Disney purposely kept expectations low. After all, its last two Broadway musicals, "The Little Mermaid" and "Tarzan," were total disasters.
But once word spread that the show, based on the flop 1992 film musical that has since gained a cult following, was a crowd-pleaser, it was only a matter of time until a Broadway transfer was announced.
Inspired by a true story, "Newsies" chronicles a group of poor teenage boys selling newspapers on the streets of New York in the late 19th century. When publishing tycoon Joseph Pulitzer (John Dossett) raises the paper's distribution cost, the boys, led by the captivating 17-year-old Jack Kelly (Jeremy Jordan), declare themselves a union and go on strike.
The memorable film score included the anthem "Seize the Day," ballad "Santa Fe" and upbeat numbers "Carrying the Banner" and "King of New York." Composer Alan Menken and lyricist Jack Feldman have penned several inferior new numbers for the stage version.
As book-writer, Harvey Fierstein has added more humor and a new female character, a reporter (Kara Lindsay), to serve as a love interest for Jack. Fierstein has also restructured the musical so that it opens with "Santa Fe," where Jack reveals his desire to leave the city.
Jeff Calhoun's excellent production benefits from a three-story set design of scaffolds, complimented by cinematic projections, and Christopher Gattelli's spectacular choreography.
The absolutely incredible young males in the cast do back-flips and audacious balletic spins, tap-dance on bar tables and shuffle with sheets of newspaper under their feet.
Jordan, who starred in the flop "Bonnie and Clyde" earlier this season, proves himself yet again to be a genuine matinee idol as Jack. His theatrical performance bursts with an aggressive fighting spirit and sincere adolescent emotion.
If you go: "Newsies" plays at the Nederlander Theatre through Aug. 19. 208 W. 41st St., newsiesthemusical.com.