Theater review: Strong choreography in PTC’s ‘Newsies’ leaves you wanting more

Brent Uberty

Members of the cast of Pioneer Theatre Company’s “Newsies.”

“NEWSIES,” through Dec. 20, Pioneer Theatre Company, 300 S. 1400 East (801-581-6961 or pioneertheatre.org); running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes (one intermission)

SALT LAKE CITY — In her director’s notes in the program, Karen Azenberg, Pioneer Theatre Company’s artistic director and director/choreography behind the playhouse’s recently opened “Newsies,” encourages audiences to pay special attention to one aspect of the show: the dancers.

“They’re hard to miss because they’re extraordinary: they fly and float and turn and glide; they defy gravity and physics; they make my heart stop from time to time,” she writes. “Some of (the dancers) might become stars, but all of them will make audience members stare in awe at their skill.”

And the show delivered on that promise of a cast of dancers with undeniable talent — an appropriate characteristic for such a dance-heavy musical theater piece that won the 2012 Tony Award for best choreography.

“Newsies” is the stage adaptation of a 1992 live-action Disney film portraying a fictionalized account of New York City’s 1899 newsboy strike. It follows a newsie named Jack Kelly as he sticks up for himself and his friends by declaring a strike when the newspaper moguls of the time band together to raise the price of papers.

But fans of the film who are unfamiliar with the musical will find tweaks in the story that add additional context: In addition to being the face of the strike, Jack is an artist who keeps his talent as more of a hobby than a potential future; and the part of the lone journalist who sees a compelling news story in the strike is changed from being a man (played by Bill Pullman in the film) to a budding female writer hoping to make her way off the paper’s society pages and into reporting on hard news.

A show like “Newsies” can be challenging to find the right cast as it requires skilled performers who also look young, but Azenberg showed exceptional ability in casting every part in the show, from the…

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