Ottawa Event Review: Newsies: The Broadway Musical by Orpheus Musical Theatre

Extra! Extra! Orpheus Musical Theatre kicks off ‘22-‘23 Season with Sensational Production of Newsies!

And what a kick-off this was! Newsies: The Broadway Musical, based on the Disney film of the same name, premiered this week at Meridian Theatres @ Centrepointe. I was honoured to be in attendance for a seemingly sold-out opening night on Friday. This is the first Orpheus production in 32 months, but you’d never know it, as this show was perfect! Orpheus has not only lived up to the bar they’d previously set, but raised it to another level completely. This production is second to none, and could easily be mistaken for a professional Broadway show. All aspects of this show were flawless, and I wouldn’t change a thing! While walking out of the theatre, I caught snippets of audience comments, including, “I loved it, I loved it!” and “it was sooooo good!” I could not have said it better myself!

Cred: Maria Vartanova

Newsies follows a group of rag-tag youth who sell newspapers, or “papes” on the streets of New York City in order to make ends meet. When a rich newspaper mogul decides to increase the cost of newspapers for the Newsies, the Newsies decide to form a union and strike to fight for their rights. This powerful story highlights the struggle between the lower working class and the upper class during the late 1800’s; the age-old David vs. Goliath story as relatable today as it ever was. Beyond this, though, Newsies exposes the deplorable conditions endured by young children who worked to support their families at that time, and the images projected on the back wall of the stage during one of the final numbers were a stark, poignant reminder of the struggles that children faced during this period of history. I loved this element of the show, and found that these photographs added a level of emotional depth not always found in musical theatre.

Cred: Maria Vartanova

Orpheus has demonstrated over the years that not only is their cast always top-notch, but their sets, props, and costumes are above and beyond what one might expect in community theatre. While for me personally, nothing will never top the car that they had in “Chitty Chitty, Bang Bang”, Orpheus’ functional and efficient use of the stage in their set design continues to impress me. This show was no different, so kudos to Jillian Foebel for the incredible set design, which not only reflected the era of this show, but was extremely functional. I also want to acknowledge the authentic props, so kudos as well to Tiara Wallace for her exceptional prop design: I loved the old phones and the wooden camera in particular! Finally, I’d like to mention the costume designer, Sarah Marks, whose vision for this show was perfectly implemented; as a member of the audience, I can honestly say that the costumes really brought me back to that earlier time. Every detail of the costuming was perfect. These three talented individuals really set the stage for the show.

The hair and makeup for the show were designed by Kim Shields, and she did a great job. I really appreciated the attention to detail in the hairstyles being typical of the time period, and the fact that no one looked too ‘made up.’ It was perfect for this show!

Cred: Maria Vartanova

Now, on to the Standout Performances:

THE CHOREOGRAPHY:

Typically in my reviews, it is the actors themselves who are lauded as the Standout Performers. However, the choreography for this show deserves this accolade! Orpheus alumni Morgan Coughlan and Niamh Webber teamed up to choreograph Newsies, and the result is nothing short of spectacular. If you have read my Orpheus show reviews in the past, this will come as no surprise, as they were the artists behind the choreography for Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, two of my absolute favourite Orpheus shows to date!

The technical elements in the dance numbers for this show were, for lack of a better word, insane. Every single movement was absolutely beautiful, but what made it really magical was how the movements of each actor/dancer intersected with the movements of the others. They were doing different movements, but they blended together so seamlessly. It really was a work of art (my wife teared up during multiple dance numbers, haha, and I would be lying if I said that I didn’t have goosebumps myself!) Don’t get me started on the tap number! And the actors did not disappoint; each executed their movements with effortless grace. I cannot say enough about how much I love these two choreographers. They could choreograph anything, and I would go to see it!

Cred: Maria Vartanova

MASON TIMM (Jack Kelly):

Timm absolutely stole the show in the role of Jack Kelly. And it wasn’t just me (and my wife, lol!) who thought so! The buzz throughout the theatre during the show, during intermission, and after the show about this talented newcomer was real! For me, it wasn’t just his outstanding vocals, his amazing comedic timing, and his solid dance skills that made him stand out; he truly embodied this character! He was charming, charismatic, and had a pretty great New York accent as well! I could go on, but I’ll stop here…except to say that performers as talented as Timm are rare—I really hope that we will see him in Orpheus shows to come!

Cred: Maria Vartanova

COOPER DUNN (Albert/Ensemble):

Dunn has been a standout performer for me in shows before; he is truly a super talented kid! In this show, what really struck me was his dance ability! One of the first shows that I saw him in was Falsetto’s (also done by Orpheus), where I applauded his ‘epic’ dance moves. But in Newsies, he really raised the bar. While all of the Newsies were fantastic dancers, there were a few who stood out because they really committed to every single movement; they were precise, full of energy, and hit every beat. Cooper was one of them (others below)! Beyond that, he had a great NYC accent and just a great presence on stage!

Cred: Maria Vartanova

DOUG THICKE (Wiesel/Mr. Jacobi/Goon/Mayor/Ensemble):

I have seen Thicke in a number of shows before, but this is the first time that I feel like he had the opportunity to demonstrate his huge talent! He played a variety of roles in Newsies, but the ones that really stood out to me were Wiesel and Mr. Jacobi! He portrayed these vastly different characters so well, it was as if they were two separate actors. I loved the voices that he chose for each, I loved the posture and the walk that he chose for each, and I loved how he delivered each of their lines. His performance has me wondering: why have I not seen him in some leading roles?! He absolutely has the talent! I really hope to see him in some bigger roles in shows to come! I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of his scenes!

Additional shoutouts for fantastic, eye-catching performances:

ANDREW WISEMAN AND TEGAN STASSEN: With unbelievable dance abilities that blew me away, Andrew Wiseman (Race) and Tegan Stassen (Jo Jo/Scab 1/ Ensemble) were sensational. As I mentioned previously, the choreography in this show was beautifully complex, so every single person on that stage was a talented dancer. But these two were just next level. Each step and every movement were perfectly executed. Clearly both gifted dancers, Stassen and Wiseman stole multiple dance-sequence scenes.

ADRIEN PYKE: Pyke was very strong in the role of Crutchie! I previously saw him in TotoToo’s Avenue Q, so I already knew that he was a great actor, but there was something really likeable about him in this role. He was not only quite funny, but sincere as well. The scenes between Crutchie and Jack were especially heart-warming, a testament to the skills of these two performers portraying the best friends.

JOHN IZIOMON: In the role of Les (on opening night, note that this role is shared between two actors who alternate shows), Iziomon was so good! The crowd loved him, with many “awwww’s” being heard throughout the theatre after most of his lines. He commanded the stage as well (or better!) than any adult actor I have seen, which is impressive, given that he is only 11! Great job! 

Cred: Maria Vartanova

The difference between a good show and a phenomenal show (the type you can’t stop talking about!) is the directing team. The Director and the Musical Director are really the geniuses behind the scenes, and I believe that Newsies is as incredible as it is because of these two!  Newsies was directed by Rebecca Russell, who made her directorial debut with this show! What a great way to start off! Musical Director Terry Duncan was brilliant, with an outstanding soundtrack throughout the entire show. Not a note was off!

Get your tickets now for one of the remaining performances. When word gets out that audiences will be treated to this high of a caliber production at a fraction of the cost of Broadway, tickets are sure to sell out! Shows are running from November 18th – 27th with tickets as low as $32. Check out the Meridian Theatres @Centrepointe website for all of the information, and of course on my events calendar too!

Cred: Maria Vartanova

Photo Credit: Maria Vartanova

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