Reviewsies: A strong cast delivers a strong performance

The theater department is performing the hit musical Newsies as the spring musical of their tenth theater season. After viewing the opening night performance, we can safely say that this show is, in a word, phenomenal.

Based on a true story, this high-energy musical tells the story of the “newsies” strike in New York City during the late 1800s. In Metea’s production, every single performer shines in what is no doubt an exhausting performance. Most of the musical numbers are high-intensity, and the show is jam-packed with tap dancing, kartwheels, jumps, spins, and turns. It is no small feat to pull such routines off, but this cast makes it look easy. The ambitious choices of this cast truly pay off in an enticing show that is able to effectively draw the audience in and hold them.

From the very first scene, Brendan Parravano as male lead Jack Kelly is something special. Parravano’s natural charisma as an actor accompanied with a powerful solo voice create a stunning presence on stage that lasts from beginning to end, making him the perfect cast. A natural leader, his energy helped catapult the cast from light to lively. Mandi Ranallo as the female lead, Katherine Plumber, is equally as compelling. Ranallo’s energy on stage is just right, and the chemistry between Kelly and Plumber is the mark of truly advanced talents of Parravano and Ranallo.

John White, Truman Mitchell, and Preetish Chakraborty present equally strong performances. Their understanding of their characters is clear, and they all display such a natural and enjoyable presence. Particularly, Chakraborty becomes a scene-stealer that can make the entire auditorium fill with laughter. As far as a supporting cast goes, these three knock it out of the park.

The main band of “newsies” in the story accompanied by Ranallo’s Katherine would not be complete without an equally talented group of supporting actors and actresses. As Jaycie Jeffirs, Josh Keske, and Rich Lazatin team up in support of the evil Joseph Pulitzer and provide a deep contrast to the talented actors on the “dream team.” With far less stage time in these characters than the protagonists, the three still manage to bring the drama and fully engage the audience in their portrayals.

Perhaps the unsung hero of every wonderful production, both the pit orchestra and tech crew were on point. The pit orchestra, led by Fine Arts department chair Don Devany, is an all-star crew of musicians. They effectively delivered a seamless accompaniment during vocal numbers and took the stage by storm during the instrumental features. As the tech crew is responsible for both show production and show-running, it is no small feat to pull of this performance of Newsies the way they did. The production chemistry of the orchestra, cast and ensemble, and tech crew led to the ability to provide not only a show, but an experience for the audience is absolutely outstanding.

Dr. Echols hands down steals the spotlight for his short but stunning portrayal of New York’s former governor and eventual 26th president, Theodore Roosevelt. As he walks onto the stage to save the day, there’s not a doubt in any mind in the auditorium that he is not perfect for the role and executes his job so well. It’s truly iconic.

While no production is without flaws, the few and far between flaws of this show are saved by performances by specially talented actors and actresses with the ability to stay in character and improvise to make sure the show, as they say, “must go on!”

Overall, perhaps the most impressive aspect of this production is how it only gets better throughout. Not to say it starts weak, but there is only one way to go: up. The energy, emotion, plot, and action only increase as the time does. Without giving too much away, you’re going to want to see the amazing final product that each and every person involved in this production has dedicated themselves to. Trust us, you’re going to want to see this show.

There are still two more chances to see this stellar performance: Friday and Saturday at 7pm. Seize the day, and buy your tickets! Your time will be well-spent!