We are very fortunate to live in a region that values the performing arts! This is evident from the fact that there are so many ways to get involved in theater – whether onstage, backstage or in the audience.
Northeast Ohio is home to world-class professional venues, vibrant youth theater programs, and several thriving community theaters. Take the Chagrin Valley Little Theater, for example, which has a delightful production of Disney’s “Newsies.”
Based on the 1992 film and inspired by real events, this David-and-Goliath-esque musical follows the story of Jack Kelly, the charismatic ringleader of a group of newsboys who dream of a better life and take on two brothers Wings and teaches them the tricks of his trade.
When newspaper magnate Joseph Pulitzer raises newspaper distribution costs, making it harder for the “newsmakers” to make money, they rally boys from across the state to “seize the day” and strike against the unfair tariffs. Set in a time when child labor laws were virtually non-existent, these guys prove kids can make a difference and outsiders can make a difference.
Newsies opened on Broadway in 2012 and has strong ties to Cleveland. Cleveland native Ben Fankhauser – who started out on many youth theater stages including Stagecrafters, Heights Youth Theater and Mandel JCC Playmakers – originated the role of Davey on Broadway and quickly became a fan favorite. The role of Jack Kelly was originally played by Broadway, television and film star Jeremy Jordan, and he was temporarily replaced by Corey Cott, a graduate of Chagrin Falls High School.
The enthusiastic cast consists of actors of all ages and experience levels who work together to produce an entertaining show that is fun for the whole family.
Tony Heffner is incredibly impressive as the unlucky Jack Kelly. It’s like he stepped straight out of another era with his harsh New York accent and scrappy attitude. He has a singing voice you can listen to all day, with a beautiful tone that ranges from tinny to delicate
Emily Sedmak has all the guts, sentimentality, vocal power and offbeat footwork required to play Kathryn.
Speaking of footwork, Jake Kleve’s agile dance moves, along with his strong vocals, add to his candid performance as Davey.
Rob Albrecht as Pulitzer is the enemy you love to hate.
And Vivien Morrison, with his larger than life stage presence, is gorgeous as Les, Davey’s little brother with a big personality.
The actors, who play all supporting roles – stronger than others – maintain a brisk pace, and the ensemble voices fill the room with powerful vocals and tight harmonies.
Kudos to the choreographer Jen Justice for creating huge dance numbers of tap dancing and gymnastics on this smaller stage. Their creative choreography lets the experienced dancers shine.
Director Pamela LaForce manages to set the perfect tone for this ambitious show, giving each actor the opportunity to develop his or her own character and creating the chemistry and camaraderie necessary to tell this story.
In other words, if you’re looking for a fun, family-friendly, and affordable feel-good show, stop the press — and head to the Chagrin Valley Little Theater for Disney’s “Newsies.”
Continues through August 13 at the Chagrin Valley Little Theater, 40 River St., Chagrin Falls. For tickets, $17 to $21, call 216-440-247-8955 or visit CVLT.org.