Friday, March 30, 2012

Newsies Opens on Broadway

The Broadway adaptation of the flop Disney movie has opened on Broadway and the reviews are in. The show has received a decidedly lukewarm reception on Broadway -- not quite the flop the film was, but not nearly as good as a terrible show like Sister Act. The New York Times panned the show, while Variety loved the show. Both reviews talked about the book, the score, and the choreography as their main talking points, taking decidedly different views on each.

The book and score were, by some accounts, fantastic -- exciting, creative, and it hit all the right notes. The Times, however, thought of the writing as merely "urchins with punctuation", to quote the review's title. I think this paragraph from Ben Brantley's review sums all that up.

"Here are a few titles of the songs by Alan Menken (music) and Jack Feldman (lyrics): “Carrying the Banner,” “The World Will Know,” “Seize the Day,” “Something to Believe In” and “Once and for All.” And if you asked me to explain what distinguishes one of these songs from another, I couldn’t begin to without consulting my notes, my program and possibly the show’s director, Jeff Calhoun, and book writer, Harvey Fierstein. You see, these are songs that take their cues from the hard-sell tactics of the show’s title characters, feisty lads of the urban jungle who make their living pushing the papes (to borrow their lingo). And if attracting the attention of potential customers requires yelling, pushing and pandering to baser sentimental instincts, well, a boy’s gotta do what a boy’s gotta do. "

The choreography was also loved by some and hated by others. To quote Velma Kelly and the Chicago gang, the choreography had "splits, spread eagles, flip flops, back flips, one right after the other." To some, this was exciting -- thrilling, actually. But, to others, it became tiring and looked like Broadway choreography's version of a paint-by-numbers.

With advance sales of $8 million already, the show is likely to be a box office hit regardless of what the critics say. The show was intended to play a limited engagement for a few months and then disappear over the summer, but has already extended on strong sales numbers.

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