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Friday, May 27, 2022

The Movie Report #1171 - May 27, 2022

The Movie Report

#1171 - May 27, 2022


MOVIES:

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Friday, May 20, 2022

The Movie Report #1170 - May 20, 2022

The Movie Report

#1170 - May 20, 2022


MOVIES:

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Monday, May 16, 2022

F3Stage Review: 3-D Theatricals belatedly bounds back to the stage with a noteworthy Newsies

Film Flam Flummox

The Great White Way is littered with many a corpse of would-be blockbuster stage musicals based on beloved films, and--contrary to the most generally held perception--a number of them have been courtesy of the entertainment and cultural behemoth that is Disney.  High profile disappointments such as The Little Mermaid, Tarzan, and Frozen have become more common in the more recent of the Mouse's near-30 years in the legit theater business, but one surprising exception has, ironically, been the stage adaptation of one of the studio's most infamous film flops: the live action musical anomaly that was 1992's Newsies.  Ten years after the property made its unexpectedly triumphant Broadway debut, 3-D Theatricals makes its big return to the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts in two years with a production that shows just why a largely forgotten screen also-ran has become a modern stage favorite.

For the unitiated, the musical, with book by Harvey Fierstein, music by Alan Menken, and lyrics by Jack Feldman, shares the same obscure historical basis as Kenny Ortega's original film: in 1899 New York City, a group of poor, young street newspaper salesboys--the "newsies" of the title--went on strike in protest of a price increase that would substantially cut their already slim profits.  What came off as stodgy and stilted on screen (due in large part to some self-consciously tentative performances, chiefly that of a young Christian Bale, whose charisma could not mask his lack of comfort in dancing and, especially, singing) proved to be anything but on stage, as seen in the filmed performance featuring much of the principal original Broadway cast that was released in select cinemas (and is now streaming on Disney+)--and, now the 3-D Theatricals production.  While not a replica of Jeff Calhoun's Broadway and national touring production, director T.J. Dawson captures the essence of what gained the piece a fan base that far dwarfs that of the film's cult.  The scenic design by Bruce Brockman (originally done for Music Theatre Wichita) is not on the scale of the massive, moving staircase, scaffolding, and square scrim trio of towers that dominated the original production.  But in form and function, a set of two smaller staircases and a lower, center scaffolding piece plus fly-in screens for the projections, work just as effectively in evoking various New York cityscapes and locations as they are pushed into various configurations by the cast.

It's that last ingredient, the cast, where any production of this piece sinks or swims--particularly in one such as this, which maintains the original Broadway and tour mounting's emphasis on elaborate, athletic, and downright acrobatic choreography.  Dawson goes an extra, uncompromising step in enlisting Chazz Wolcott, a veteran of the First National Tour cast, to recreate Christopher Gattelli's Tony-winning work, so true triple threat talents were required across the board, and the entire company delivers.  More than most shows, the ensemble players deserve special mention, with the many large group numbers supplying and maintaining the bulk of the piece's propulsive energy.  But the principals, particularly Dillon Klena (as newsie leader Jack Kelly) and Allison Sheppard (as, in a bit of a composite of two characters in the source film, young newspaper reporter Katherine, who develops a personal interest in Jack beyond the cause) fluidly, seamlessly slide into the troupe whenever called on to do so.  Sheppard in particular is impressive in the act two opener, "King of New York"; the original film counterpart featured a very brief moment of tap dance, which, in a rather inspired bit of translation to the stage, now dominates and drives the number.

The company of the 3-D Theatricals production of
Newsies, directed by T.J. Dawson and now playing
at Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.
(photo by CaughtInTheMoment.com)

Driving the entire show's word of mouth since its world premiere at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey in 2011 has been the spirited dancing, but that alone does not mean a thing if there is no audience connection with the story and characters.  With the former still being the somewhat dry even with all the welcome narrative streamlining and retooling done by Fierstein's book, the actors are called on to add the necessary flavor and engagement, and the lead cast are up to the task. Klena is an effortlessly likable and charismatic presence, and he has excellent chemistry with the luminous Sheppard and his focal fellow newsies, Davey (Rod Bagheri), his younger brother Les (Colton Dorfman), and the aptly nicknamed Crutchie (Kyle Frattini). They are also very able vocalists, revealing just how much Menken's tunes were shortchanged by the film's less capable voices. The designated "adults" in the piece, Norman Large as greedy publisher Joseph Pulitzer and Carrie Compere as vaudeville performer/newsie supporter Medda Larkin, remain fairly thankless, functional roles, they make positive impressions.

Making a lasting impression is 3-D Theatricals' Newsies as a whole, achieving an alchemy where the live experience is exponentially more entertaining and memorable than it would appear on paper. After two years away from the stage, the company's joy in performing again is palpable, and that exuberant energy is infectious and irresistible from first moment to the curtain call.


The 3-D Theatricals production of Newsies is now playing at Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts through Sunday, May 29.

The company of the 3-D Theatricals production of
Newsies, directed by T.J. Dawson and now playing
at Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.
(photo by CaughtInTheMoment.com)

(Special thanks to 3-D Theatricals and Demand PR)


The Movie Report wants to attend all your live stage productions! Please send any and all invitations to this address. Thanks!

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Friday, May 6, 2022

The Movie Report #1168 - May 6, 2022

The Movie Report

#1168 - May 6, 2022


MOVIES:

The Movie Report wants to attend and cover all your film events and press junkets! Please send any and all invitations to this address. Thanks!

Follow me on Instagram - @twotrey23 Follow me on Twitter - @twotrey23 Subscribe to TheMovieReport.com YouTube Channel

Instagram: @twotrey23

Twitter: @twotrey23