A rag tag group of orphans band together to take on the “big man,” the all powerful Joseph Pulitzer. Alan Menken delivers the hit musical NEWSIES alongside Harvey Fierstein who writes the book for this Disney musical that turned a cult classic film into a fan favorite stage show. The musical now makes its regional debut right here in San Diego at the Moonlight Amphitheater in Vista.
NEWSIES, the second musical of the season for Moonlight Stage Productions, follows their hit Mamma Mia! Around forty actors; alongside dozens of crew members including sound, costumes, hair, make-up and more, all come together to deliver a riveting eye-catching performance.
Not only does the production entertain, it also puts a spotlight on the famous 1899 newsboy strike. Young newsies, under the leadership of the charismatic Jack Kelly (Dillon Klena) and newcomer to the newsie life Davey Jacobs (Scott Arnold), initiate the founding of a union. Under that leadership they work to learn the art of negotiating business to fight the rise in newspaper distribution prices. Along the way they are helped by the intrepid reporter Katherine Plumber (Katharine McDonough) who is able to take the plight of the young men to the masses.
Dillon Klena, following in his broadway-starring brother Derek Klena’s footsteps, takes on the role of Jack Kelly. In that role, Klena portrays Jack as both cool and confident while at the same time an honest vulnerability. That vulnerability is showcased effectively when paired with the great casting of McDonough. These two performers truly shine during their duet, “Something to Believe In,” a breathtaking piece of theater. The emotion that both actors give the audience is palpable. While only age 19, Klena is an actor to keep on your radar. He shows promise to deliver strong roles with great effectiveness.
The stand-out in the crowd at Moonlight’s production of NEWSIES however is Scott Arnold in the role of Davey Jacobs. I’ve seen the Broadway production of the show alongside the touring production as well as the most recent regional production from McCoy Rigby Entertainment. Out of the five Daveys I have seen, Arnold is the stand-out of the group. He showcases Broadway caliber talent in this role. Providing an authentic portrayal of the character while delivering clear crips vocals, the likes of which you could listen to all day. Last seen in San Diego Musical Theaters production of The Full Monty, Arnold is able to really shine and showcase the immense talents in this regional debut production of NEWSIES.
The rest of the ragtag group of newsies portray their unique characters with energy and perseverance. Making for a group of kids that you are ready to root for in their endeavor to take on Pulitzer and get a fair shake in the deal. That sentiment of advocating for oneself and for the little guy is just one of the things that stand out for director Larry Raben.
The original story and this musical are reminders of the power of youth to challenge and change the status quo. It celebrates the ability we all have to stand up to injustice and advocate for ourselves. — Larry Raben, Director
Raben expertly directs this production for Moonlight, giving his own take for a show that has high stakes in how it is delivered, especially for those who have seen the Broadway or Touring versions of the production. I mentioned earlier the breathtaking scene between Klena and McDonough during their duet of “Something to Believe In.” This was just one of the scenes that Raben was able to deliver to the audience with a new twist on the subject matter. By using the large scaffolding set pieces as a character/prop in their own right, he was able to, alongside Jennifer Edwards’ lighting design, develop something that is rather eye catching and emotionally beautiful.
The lighting in this production was dazzling. From scene to scene Edwards brings to life the gritty yet beautiful life of New York City. While David McQuillen Robertson, whose set was recently used during the McCoy Rigby version of this production, does what very few have been able to do—take what was on Broadway and bring it to the regional stage. Despite using the same sets and scaffolding pieces, Raben was able to stage scenes in a dramatically different yet effective ways.
Also unique to Moonlight’s production of NEWSIES is the use of projection and video design from Jonathan Infante. Normally I am not a big fan of the use of projection as I would rather have real set pieces. However, in this production they add to rather than subtract from the story.
NEWSIES is known for its dancing as it really is a high kicking, flying, and tumbling-filled production. It’s what made me fall in love with this show and why I’ve seen it so many times in so many venues. In Moonlight’s production of NEWSIES the tap dance number of “King of New York” is the stand out routine. The immense talent of the actors and their dance skills are showcased well in this number as well as in the finalé. The tumbling and flips and tricks are all there for the dazzling high paced action that you come to expect.
The talent’s acting and vocals skills make this a production to check out. The music under the baton of Randi Ellen Rudolph soars and will have you tapping your feet and enjoying the newsies as they take on “Big Man” Pulitzer.
NEWSIES features: Dillon Klena (Jack Kelly), Katharine McDonough (Katherine Plumber), Hank Stratton (Joseph Pulitzer), Scott Arnold (Davey Jacobs), Noah Baird (Les Jacobs), Austyn Myers (Crutchie), Shirley Johnson (Medda Larkin), Greg Bailey (Wiesel / Stage Manager /Jacobi/Mayor), Jake Bradford (Albert/Bill Hearst), Gavin Calais (Jo Jo / Darcy), Gabriella Certo (Woman / Nun / Bowery Beauty), Wes Dameron (Finch), Hanz Enyeart (Elmer), Johnny Fletcher (Seitz), Sky Nathan Frank (Mush), Tyler Fromson (Romeo), Colby Hamann (Race), Danny Hansen (Spot Conlon / Tommy Boy / Scab), Fisher Kaake (Morris Delancey / Mike), Sean Kiralla (Buttons / Scab), Shayne Mims (Bunsen), Paul Morgavo (Snyder), Jacob Narcy (Henry), Greg Nicholas (Nunzio / Guard / Policeman / Roosevelt), James Odom (Specs), Tristen Ross (Sniper / Scab), Tim Stokel (Oscar Delancey / Ike), Erica Marie Weisz (Hannah / Nun / Bowery Beauty)
Youth Ensemble: Nick Aiello, Sean Barnett, Josh Bradford, Hayden Luedde, Piatt Carpenter Pund, Tori Hitchcock, Madison O’Donovan, Claire Scheper, Cassidy Ann Smith, Catalina Jewel Zelles.
Additional Credits: Larry Raben (Director), Randi Rudolph (Musical Director and Conductor), Karl Warden (Choreographer), David McQuillen Robertson (Scene Design), Jennifer Edwards (Lighting Design), Jonathan Infante (Projection and Video Design), Jim Zadai (Sound Design), Brooke Baldwin (Stage Manager)
NEWSIES: Music by Alan Menken; Lyrics by Jack Feldman; Book by Harvey Fierstein
Single tickets for Moonlight Stage production of NEWSIES range from $17 – $57. There are discounts for Seniors and Students and military. For tickets contact The Moonlight Amphitheatre at 760-724-2110 or visit the Moonlight Stage Production Ticket Website.
NEWSIES showtimes are June 18 – August 4 with gates opening at 6:30pm and showtimes at 8pm.
The Moonlight Amphitheatre is located at 1200 Vale Terrace Dr, Vista, CA 92084
Take the Civic Center Drive and exit off Highway 78, go north. Turn right on E Vista Way. Turn right on Vale Terrace. Continue on Vale Terrace about 1/2 mile and turn left into Brengle Terrace Park.
Parking at Moonlight Amphitheatre
There is free parking available at Brengle Terrace Park. Shuttle service is available for those who end up parking in the upper grass lot. The shuttle will begin running 2.5 hours before the show starts as well as after the show.
For more information and tickets call The Moonlight Amphitheatre at 760-724-2110 or visit The Moonlight Stage Production website.