Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Arena Stage
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's review of Amadeus

Erin Weaver and Cast
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Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., is celebrating the holiday season with a dynamic production of Newsies. With an accomplished and apparently tireless cast, Parker Esse's propulsive choreography and Molly Smith's assured direction, the in-the-round Fichandler Stage bursts with energy and heart.

The musical by Alan Menken (music), Jack Feldman (lyrics), and Harvey Fierstein (book), adapted from a 1992 Disney movie, recounts a true story of poor newsboys—and, in this production, a few newsgirls—in 1899 New York City, taking on the unfair tactics of newspaper titan Joseph Pulitzer (Edward Gero). Smith finds a parallel between the newsies of more than a century ago and contemporary activism by young people on gun violence, climate change, and other issues, but she is never heavy-handed about it.

Fierstein's solidly plotted book focuses on Jack Kelly (Daniel J. Maldonado), the leader of the newsies and the one who holds them together in both good and bad times. As Ken MacDonald's ever-shifting scenic design—which at times includes the aisles and the walkway behind the seating areas—demonstrates, many of the newsies are homeless, sleeping on tenement roofs and fed by kindly nuns and tavern owners; a few have left school to support their families because a parent is unable to work; and some end up in a Dickensian for-profit youth prison (another subject with modern parallels).

Maldonado has the necessary swagger and powerful voice, and is well-matched by the actresses playing two women who help Jack along the way. The redoubtable Nova Y. Payton, in Alejo Vietti's most glittery costumes, is Medda Larkin, vaudeville star and theater owner, and Erin Weaver, recipient of six solo Helen Hayes Awards and one ensemble award, is Katherine Plumber, a young woman fighting the odds to become a journalist in a male-dominated field.

While Pulitzer is undeniably the heavy in this story, well-respected Washington actor Gero gives him a gloss of self-justification: he really believes that, if he's going to boost his profits, gouging the kids at the bottom will teach them a valuable lesson. (Of course, the lesson they learn is somewhat different.)

But back to Esse's choreography. The newsies fly through the air with cartwheels, somersaults, leapfrog, stage-filling acrobatics, a bit of an Irish jig, even a tap routine on tabletops, and never seem winded.

Arena Stage
November 1st - December 29th, 2019
Music by Alan Menken
Lyrics by Jack Feldman
Book by Harvey Fierstein
Based on the Disney film written by Bob Tzudiker and Noni White
Oscar Delancey/Bill/Ensemble: Rory Boyd
Specs/Ensemble: Matthew Davies
Bunsen/Stage Manager/Ensemble: Javier del Pilar
Snyder/Ensemble: Wyn Delano
Seitz/Ensemble: Christian Douglas
Joseph Pulitzer: Edward Gero
Swing: Brett-Marco Glauser
Les: Hazel Hay
Morris Delancey/Darcy/Ensemble: Michael Hewitt
Romeo/Spot Conlon/Dance Captain: Michael John Hughes
Nun/Hannah/Ensemble: Carole Denise Jones
Jack Kelly: Daniel J. Maldonado
Finch/Ensemble: Tomás Matos
Crutchie: Joe Montoya
Mush/Ensemble: Emre Ocak
Albert/Scab/Ensemble: Shiloh Orr
Medda Larkin/Nun: Nova Y. Payton
Henry/Buttons/Ensemble: Tanner Pflueger
Splasher/Nun/Ensemble: Bridget Riley
Tommy Boy/Scab/Ensemble/Fight Captain: Tro Shaw
Wiesel/Mr. Jacobi/Mayor/Ensemble: Thomas Adrian Simpson
Nunzio/Teddy Roosevelt/Ensemble: Jamie Smithson
Les: Josiah Smothers
Swing: Lucy Spring
Elmer/Scab/Ensemble: Luke Spring
Davey Jacobs: Ethan Van Slyke
Katherine Plumber: Erin Weaver
Race/Ensemble: Chaz Wolcott
Jo Jo/Ensemble: Kelli Youngman
Directed by Molly Smith
Choreographed by Parker Esse
Music direction by Laura Bergquist
Fichandler Stage, Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater, 1101 Sixth St. SW
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-488-3300 or