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REVIEW: Newsies at Quad City Music Guild

Extra! Extra! Hear all about it! Quad City Music Guild scores “20” stars on a scale of “10” with its current production of the Disney Musical, Newsies, fabulously directed by the multi-talented Erin Platt.

I was surprised to learn from the Director’s Notes that when the film version of this show premiered in 1992 it was considered “dismal,” by critics and that “despite its poor box office returns, the film developed an almost cult-like following” which generated preparation for live stage performances, opened off Broadway to such unexpected overwhelming success that it went on to open on Broadway where it ended up running for 2 ½ years and won the Tony award for Best Original Score and Choreography out of its multiple nominations.

This musical is based on the true story of the July 1899 New York City newsboys strike. Program notes state that at the time it is estimated that close to 2 million children worked as newsboys, likely to supplement their parents’ income. So, when newspaper moguls William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pultitzer increased the cost of selling a stack of 100 newspapers by a dime, this had a tremendous impact on the newsboys’ livelihood and the result was a strike that spread throughout all of New York City and beyond. It took only a mere two weeks for Hearst and Pulitzer to capitulate, so it really isn’t a big leap to see why this show resonates. As Platt’s notes state: “never underestimate the collective power of one small voice joining forces with others.”

First of all, let me say there is not a ringer in the entire cast. The vocal and acting talent of these performers is beyond amazing and there are some very impressive dance and acrobatic moves as well. Taking major roles in this cast include as ringleader Jack Kelly, Joey Dryoel, as his second-in-command, Davey, is Cody Dutton, as Davey’s brother Les is Ben Bergthold, as the thoroughly captivating Crutchie is Blue Roland, and as Jack’s love interest Katherine is Hillary Erb. This is Dryoel’s first lead role at QCMG and he makes a cannonball of a BIG splash in this debut; Bergthold and Roland who are only in their early teens give performances worthy of much more experienced actors.

This gargantuan exuberant ensemble exudes nothing less than atomic energy that absolutely mushrooms on stage. That being said, there was one member in the ensemble that caught my eye but I had to identify him by process of elimination using the program’s head shots. Bear in mind, that the photos in programs are often not the most recent of a performer so if I have made an error, I apologize in advance. But I’m pretty sure it’s Eli Swailes; his big dramatic performance really stood out.

Needless to say, it was no surprise that opening night elicited a huge “Standing O” and I have no doubt whatsoever that all subsequent performances will as well.

Newsies continues at Quad City Music Guild’s theatre in Moline’s Prospect Park Thursday through Saturday, July 11 through 13 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, June 14 at 2:00 p.m. If you’re new to Music Guild, be advised that parking at the theatre is limited to the handicapped and volunteers. All others can catch a shuttle from the Southpark Mall’s parking lot outside of JC Penney’s.

I’m Chris Hicks…break a leg.