Extra, Extra! ‘Newsies’ Set to Leap Onto the RTC Stage


It’s 1899, and a rag-tag gang of ragamuffins, known as “newsies,” led by Jack Kelly, form their own union protesting newspaper titan Joseph Pulitzer for hiking the price of the “papes” they hawk to feed themselves. To borrow a quote from Charles Dickens’ novel, “A Tale of Two Cities,”— “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity…,” and the Rockaway Theatre Company’s (RTC) production of the musical, “Newsies,” powerfully points out the conflict between family and love, hatred and oppression, good and evil, light and darkness, and wisdom and folly. The stirring ballads, amazing choreography and acting played out on the stage illuminates a time in NYC that was at one hand—one of despair and suffering—and on the other—a ray of joy and hope. The curtain on RTC’s moving production goes up this Friday, July 19, and it’s definitely not one to miss.

This past Monday, The RT got a sneak peak of the production, directed and choreographed by Gabby Mangano. The production crew and cast pulled no punches in making this an epic production of talent and artistry. The music, directed by Jeffrey Arzberger, is a live orchestra filling the theater with a cacophony of sounds ranging from flute, clarinet, guitar, violin, piano, cello and drums. Watching the actors and dancers will leave you shell-shocked with their larger-than-life energetic scores and dance gymnastics. No note is lost in translation, and try not to blink with the eye-opening proof, that there is a great deal of talent in community theater.

Jack Kelly, (played by Sam Kelley), the leader of the pack of ragamuffins, comes off as a rogue, very handsome and outwardly standoffish, but there is a tenderness he emotes especially with his friend, Crutchie. Thomas Daudelin, the actor playing the role of Crutchie, a disabled orphaned youth who walks with crutches, is so believable that you want to walk to the stage and hold him as he precariously balances his pain of being different from his peers, but still trying to fit in with the gang of misfits. No spoiler alert, but what happens to him at the ending, will have you in tears.

Another magnetic star on the stage is the owner of a vaudeville theater, Medda Larkin, who befriends Kelly, and gives him protection from the authorities. Donna Falzon, who plays Larkin, is sexy, lush and her guttural vocals will woo you to want to join her as she unabashedly unleashes her raw sensuality, very avant garde, especially for the time period. Early in act one, Medda tells Jack, “Where better to escape trouble but the theater!” Her rendition of “That’s Rich” will fill you with life.

And the showstopper, though you only see him in one scene is actor, Brian Sadowski, who plays the evil man himself, Joseph Pulitzer. Love him or hate him, Sadowski as Pulitzer is so believable that you want to flog him—he’s that good.

Newsies really tells the story of what a labor union can unleash when it comes to solidarity, and fighting against big guys like Pulitzer, who have their “scabs” aka gangsters, to keep uprisings down, but fail. Why—because the American spirit, especially “New Yawkers’” is strong and resilient, and never takes, “No!,” laying down.

Director and choreographer, Gabby Mangano, is to be commended for her mix of acrobatics and dance combos for the motley crew cast. Some of the dancers/actors such as Romeo (played by Jonathan Mitchell) will have you watching in awe, wondering how did he pull off those flips and dance moves.

The set design by Frank Caiti is so fluid, and your eyes are riveted by the chalkboard showing the newspaper headline of the day and how tabloid press sold papers—maybe very unlike The New York Times’ slogan, “All the News That's Fit to Print.” Protagonist Jack even illustrates that when he tries to show a newbie newsie, Les, (Dylan Taruskin, another showstopper in the production), how to sell “papes.” Jack tells Les, “So, how old are you kid?” Les: “I’m ten…almost.” Jack: “Well if anybody asks, you’re seven. Younger sells more paper, and if we’re gonna be partners…That’s just business… (To the newsies): Newsies! Get to the streets. The sun is up, the headline stinks, and this kid ain’t gettin’ any younger!

When the newsies’ bottom line is reduced with the 10 cents increase on selling a bundle of 100 papers, they show what solidarity in fighting your rights is all about, but unfortunately with a personal cost.

As they say in the show, "There's change coming once and for all. You makes the front page and man, you is major news.”

And folks, RTC’s “Newsies” is a headliner. As commented by Mangano, “Overall, “Newsies,” is a story of hope. A true story—where kids took a stand and bound together to change their future. I hope everyone enjoys watching it as much as I enjoyed making it.”

RTC’s “Newsies” show dates are July 19, 20, 21, 26, 27, 28, and August 2, 3 and 4, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Ticket prices: Adults $25 and Seniors $20 at the T4 Post Theatre Building. For more info and tickets, visit: www.rockawaytheatrecompany.org.