“The world will feel the fire and finally know!” – Newsboys, from the musical Newsies
It might be the season for raincoats and umbrellas, but Globe Live and 9 Works Theatrical‘s Philippine staging of Disney’s Newsies still set Philippine theatre ablaze. The Newsies boys were all fired up to let the world know that it’s possible to have all that talent on one stage. The cast spent six months training and rehearsing for a month long production, which was, after watching, definitely not enough.
Prior to watching, I didn’t know much about Newsies. As the show went on, a feeling of familiarity swept over me. The musical reminded me of another musical that also featured performances that filled the stage with energy from start to finish, backed by a heartwarming story of an underdog fighting the unjust status quo. It was the feeling when I first saw La Cage Aux Folles on stage. Were the two shows written by the same person?
It turns out my hunch was justified: both were written for the stage by award-winning playwright Harvey Fierstein. Another happy coincidence: La Cage was also staged by 9 Works a couple of years back.
Non-stop Newsies energy
Everyone in the audience, myself included, got a serious case of Newsies fever. The show featured one LSS-inducing song after the other, such as The World Will Know, Seize the Day and Santa Fe. You couldn’t help but sing and (tap) dance along. After all, it was encouraged so I gladly obliged. 😉
Even young members of the audience couldn’t contain themselves. I envied the toddler on the row next to mine. She could dance on her feet without blocking the view of the other audience members. 💃
The Newsies cast sang and danced with the utmost passion. Every jump, turn and split was en pointe (ballet pun intended!) to the oohs and aahs of an awestruck audience. Not to mention their insane stamina. Going from one high-energy group number to another with just a few minutes of break in between must have been exhausting. Yet they still looked like they were enjoying themselves and having the time of their lives on stage.
Triple threat training
One of the things I love about this show was that Globe Live! and 9 Works auditioned triple-threats with different backgrounds. One’s a banker (like me! represent!), a licensed commercial pilot and a ballet dancer. They gave everyone the opportunity to perform on that stage and become a triple threat. This was possible through a rigorous training documented in the 6-episode web show, Training Ground, where the cast trained in acting, voice, and different dance disciplines, such as ballet, jazz, hip-hop and tap. Performing a show on consecutive days is no joke. Luckily, this training equipped them for the show’s short but intense month-long run, and their hard work paid off and showed.
Gian Magdangal made his Philippine theatre comeback with this show, and his performance as Jack Kelly really showcased the breadth of his theatre experience. Watching him from his early days, when I was a wee high school student, as a member of boy band 17:28, up to his noontime variety show turn in Party Pilipinas, he has always been one of the most reliable local performers we have. His Jack Kelly was a dreamer, someone you would root for. He could definitely give Jeremy Jordan a run for his money.
Gawad Buhay awardee for Outstanding Lead Actor Jef Flores is still on a roll. I caught his vlogs on Youtube and his schedule was no joke. He was juggling (the guy can juggle too!) two other productions during Training Ground. I always wondered how actors simultaneously play different roles from different musicals at the same time. (Uber plays a significant part btw!). We all know Jef can act and sing, but in Newsies, we saw him tap dance and do pirouettes. This guy just made us fall in love with him all over again.
Pinky Marquez was phenomenal as Medda Larkin. Even though she only had a minor role, she stole every scene she was in. You could really feel the warmth and affection her character had for Jack. She put a lighter mood on an otherwise gloomy setting of New York setting. She had great chemistry with the younger actors in the cast.
Luis Marcelo as Crutchie perfectly complemented Jack Kelly, most notably in Santa Fe (Prologue). I loved how the opening scene played out: Jack shared his dream of one day leaving New York, asking Crutchie to leave with him. Even if both were unsure if they could escape New York to a better life in Santa Fe, they sang their hearts out. Luis successfully delivered Crutchie’s mixed emotions of hope and sorrow.
Alex Diaz looked like he had been performing for years now, but this is actually his theatrical debut. We already know that he could sing, dance, and act–among his many talents–but doing all of those at the same time, plus possessing charisma in spades as Newsie Race is truly a marvel to witness. He looks very much comfortable in theater, and I’m really hoping more musicals are in his future.
There’s one other actor that I wish to see in more musicals in the future; he’s even the youngest in the cast. I know that there are two actors who played Les, but I really adored Daniel Drilon‘s performance. I first watched him act in a Philippine production of Secret Garden and then, last year, in Globe Live and 9 Works’ A Christmas Carol, and he is getting better and better every time.
Testament to Filipino talent
Although Newsies is an adaptation of a Broadway musical, Joe Caliro, head of Globe Live, emphasized that this production was all-Filipino. Both the cast and the crew who worked on this staging showcased some of the best and most creative of the Filipino.
The stage design stayed true to the original Broadway staging, which was also pretty much in line with previous Globe Live and 9 Works productions. The stage looked smaller than their two previous productions but all of the stage elements added depth both to the visuals and the story. I loved witnessing the stagehands turn, flip, and fold all of the moving stage parts while transitioning from scene to scene to immerse us in sprawling, industrial-era New York. Since this is Globe Live and 9 Works third production at the Globe Iconic Store BGC Amphitheatre, they have pretty much mastered working in an outdoor setting.
The show’s month-long run is definitely not enough for a show this big. Just like the Philippine staging of La Cage, Newsies is probably due for a rerun in the coming months. If (or when) it comes back to the stage, I am most definitely watching the show again to witness Filipino creativity at its finest! 😀 *fingers-crossed*
Did you catch Newsies during its month-long run? What Newsies songs are still giving you LSS? Are you also looking forward to a rerun? Sound off in the comments below.