Did you hear the news(ies): Newsies wows Beacon staff members


Virginia Suardi and Ayomi Wolff

“There’s change coming, once and for all,” announces the defiant cast of “Newsies” at Arena Stage. “Newsies,” a Disney musical, is a hearty, riotous, and spectacular show about poor New York workers standing up for their rights against the corrupt influence of newspaper giant Joseph Pulitzer. 

The show centers around the lives of a group of penniless young “newsies”—children who sell newspapers on the streets of Manhattan. Already a heavy job selling newspapers to the tough New York crowd, Joseph Pulitzer, owner of “The World” (the newspaper that the young newsies work for) makes it harder for the young newsies. In order to increase revenue for the paper, Pulitzer increases the price for a stack of papers that the newsies then have to sell. In response to this crisis, the newsies, led by Jack Kelley (Daniel J. Maldonado), decide to strike against the newspaper in hopes of forcing Pulitzer to reduce the price. 

One of our favorite parts of the show was Nova Y. Payton’s performance as Medda Larkin, the flamboyant Vaudeville singer, who lit up the stage with her effervescent persona, masterful vocals, and glittering gowns. In fact, all of the cast members held their own, with Maldonado skillfully executing the brash nature of his character, and Erin Weaver’s sincere portrayal of the quick-witted, earnest young journalist, Katherine Plumber. The ensemble worked together magnificently, bringing an extraordinary amount of talent and energy to each breakneck dance number and heartfelt moment, providing a powerful sense of camaraderie and warmth. 

But perhaps the most amazing bit was at the top of the second act in which the ensemble newsies broke out into a tap-dancing extravaganza.

Another standout moment was the entrance of the nuns, played by Nova Y. Payton, Bridget Riley, and Carole Denise Jones, in the first act. Their glorious vocals illuminated the stage as they glided along the stage floor, offering love and kindness to the young and desolate characters as well as spreading an aura of hope and light over the audience. 

One place where “Newsies” fell short was the delivery of the important message of the show. At its core, “Newsies,” is a story about standing up for the rights of abused child laborers. The more poignant moments of the show that clarified the true hardships of the situation were unfortunately overshadowed by an abundance of humorous moments. The comedic nature, while enjoyable, made it hard to appreciate the severity of the issues at the root of the musical.

Overall, “Newsies” at Arena Stage was a knee-slapping experience. We thoroughly enjoyed the unforgettable tap dance number, the dynamic and vivacious nuns, and especially the breathtaking performance of Ethan Van Slyke as Davey. We would recommend “Newsies” to anyone who is looking for an inspiring, uplifting musical to get some holiday cheer!