St. Paul VI Catholic High School
In a world where there was no Internet and no 24-hour news cycle, people waited with baited breath for the daily newspaper to reach them every morning. Set against the backdrop of the Gilded Age, you could almost hear the newsboys proclaiming "Extra, extra, read all about it!" during Hayfield Secondary School's performance of Newsies Saturday night.
This is the world of Newsies, a 1992 musical film starring Christian Bale, Robert Duvall, and Bill Pullman. The 2012 Broadway production, based on the film, was written by Harvey Fierstein with music by Alan Menken. Th Broadway version garnered Tony Awards for Best Score and Best Choreography and ran for 1,004 performances.
The musical was inspired by the 1899 Newsboy Strike in New York City. The story focuses on fictitious paper boys, Jack, Davey, and Crutchie, and their ally, Katherine. Real historical figure Joseph Pulitzer acts as the primary antagonist. The impoverished newsboys find themselves buckling under the burden of increased newspaper fees, while Pulitzer, owner of the New York World newspaper, turns a blind eye to everything but his own "Bottom Line." The Newsies fight back by forming a labor union and find that it exacts a personal price on many of them.
Leading the cast (and the strike) as Jack Kelly, Max Von Kolnitz decisively established his character's leadership of the newsies with commanding vocals in "Carrying the Banner." Von Kolnitz's versatility was on display at the beginning of the show when he sang about Jack's dream to move west in "Santa Fe." Brooke Smith as Katherine Plumber, a reporter who takes a liking to the newsboys and beings to cover their strike, showed off her impressive singing voice and hope for the Newsies to triumph in "Watch What Happens." The gorgeous blending of Smith and Von Kolnitz's voices in "Something to Believe In" gave the audience the impression that they truly were a team.
As new paperboy Davey Jacobs, Corbin Cheng Farrell convincingly portrayed the transformation from passive paper seller to radical agent for change. The enthusiasm inherent in his vocals in "Seize the Day" made the audience want to pick up a picket sign and join his cause.
Patrica Villaroel Narvaez as Jack's longtime friend Crutchie gave the audience the impression that despite her infirmity, she had enough spunk to handle police and strikebreakers alongside the other Newsies.
As the greedy newspaper tycoon Joseph Pulitzer, Brynn Spradlin clearly relished his role as the man we all love to hate. His haughty air made his superiority palpable, but his performance was versatile enough to soften during his compromise with the Newsies.
The actors were aided in their endeavor to bring these characters to life by the efforts of the technical crews. The rose-colored lighting on Max Von Kolnitz's Jack and Brooke Smith's Katherine during "Something to Believe In" signified the love between their characters.
The quiet desperation of late 1890's unskilled labor was expertly illustrated by the purposeful shabbiness of the costumes. In contrast, Pulitzer's finery marked the chasm between the social classes.
The orchestra's laser focus and commitment to the music allowed them to both enhance the show and be part of the show, even as newspaper confetti rained down upon them. As further testament to their ability, they struck the perfect volume balance between performance and accompaniment.
The Hayfield Dramahawks transported the audience to a simpler time when newspaper carrier was a career and captains of industry made the rules. This charming story about the triumph of the human spirit and quest for a better life was a delight to experience.
McLean High School
As the sun rises over the rooftops of New York City, a young boy stands on a rooftop, dreaming of faraway skies. He is unaware of how, in just a few days, his life will be transformed into one of daring rebellion. His inspiring fight, alongside acrobatic dancing and terrific music, made Hayfield Secondary School's production of Newsies stop the presses.
Based on the 1992 film of the same title and inspired by the newsboy strike of 1899, Newsies tells the classic tale of the underprivileged taking control of their futures and resisting their oppressors. In this case, the newsboys of New York City, led by the effervescent Jack Kelley are revolting against Joseph Pulitzer, the owner of the newspaper they work for. Jack stands up to not only the terrifying power of New York's richest but also the fear of letting down those who look up to him and the frightening freefall of love. This inspiring tale's 2012 Broadway production was nominated for eight Tonys and won two, Best Choreography and Best Original Score.
Max Von Kolnitz (Jack Kelley) delivered a performance that highlighted the courage of his character, especially in his confrontations with Pulitzer. His extensive vocal range and incredible technique were best displayed in "Santa Fe" and "Something to Believe In." While Von Kolnitz's charisma was endlessly endearing, his depiction was enhanced through his interactions with Brooke Smith (Katherine Plumber), particularly in the number "Something to Believe In." Smith's emotional and vocal dexterity delighted theatergoers. Her solo numbers, like "Watch What Happens" quickly became the most memorable.
The sizable production was not without a superb supporting cast, which included Corbin Cheng Farrell as Davey Jacobs and Patricia Villaroel Narvaez as Crutchie. Farell's impeccable comedic timing made even the most morose scenes, like the scene of Jack's betrayal, into scenes of full mirth. His textured voice glossily floated through challenging numbers, such as "The World Will Know" and "Once and For All." Narvaez, on the other hand, perfectly characterized quiet strength, especially in "Letter from the Refuge."
Other standouts include polar opposites, Brynn Spradlin (Joseph Pulitzer) and Elle White (Medda Larkin). Where Spradlin was evil and cunning, White embodied kindness and amusement. The powerful vocal talents of each were prominently displayed in "The Bottom Line" and "That's Rich."
Within the Newsies ensemble, three talents rose above the throng; Zack Collison as Race, Joran Rockhill as Spot Conlin/Jojo, and Naja Bates as a dancer. The remarkable talents of this trio were most noticeable in "King of New York," but the personality they brought to their roles made each of their characters unforgettable.
From a technical standpoint, this show was also particularly impressive. For instance, the dynamic sets enhanced each number, yet also accommodated the expansive cast. The three-story set and working fountain, fused with bold lighting choices drew the audience to 1800s New York City and held them there. The orchestra was also exceptional, handling a difficult score with ease. They did not falter, even when doused in ripped up newspapers, thrown from the newsboys onstage.
Hayfield Secondary School's portrayal of Newsies enthralled its audience from the opening curtain to the final bow and reminded those watching that even the littlest person can make a huge difference. When leaving the auditorium, one could not help but feel like The King of New York.