GARDEN CITY – I have to admit that when the Pickleville Playhouse announced that it would stage the Disney musical Newsies, I worried that the talented Davis clan here had finally bitten off more than they could chew.

I had only seen previous productions of the big cast show in huge theaters with lots of elbowroom on stage. I couldn’t help but wonder how the Pickleville folks would transfer Newsies to the tiny stage in their rustic playhouse.

The answer to that question, in a single word, is magnificently.

The Pickeville production of Newsies is absolutely electric. Far from being a drawback, director Kenzie Davis Kremin has turned the intimate scale of the theater into a positive advantage, creating a blockbuster.

With its actors seeming to perform at virtual arms length, the opening night audience on June 18 was caught up in the musical’s raw emotions. The cast’s enthusiasm was vividly on display and was more infectious than COVID-19.

All in all, Newsies is one of those rare occasions when it’s difficult to tell who’s having more fun – the cast or the audience.

The musical’s inspiring plot is loosely based of the historic Newsboys Strike of 1899, a revolt against newspaper mogul Joseph Pulitzer by the young men who hawked his papers on the streets of New York City.

While the result of that work stoppage was nowhere near as clear-cut as the script by Harvey Fierstein would have you believe, the play features some of Disney composer Alan Menken’s most lively tunes and provides an excuse for high-energy dancing throughout.

The newsboy strike was led orphan teenager Jack Kelly, a composite character well played here by Sutton Kaylor.

Kaylor opens the show with his own theme, a ballad called “Santa Fe,” and later blends nicely in duets with fellow street-rat Crutchie (played by Payton Davis) and fledgling newsboy brothers Davey and Les (played by Elijah Paruzynski and Patrick Despain respectively).

Kaylor has a habit of displaying his frustration with the odds the world has stacked against him by singing through gritted teeth. It shouldn’t work, but it does — beautifully.

The show’s spark-plug, however, is newcomer Tori Adler as female reporter Katherine who champions the newsboys’ cause. Ms. Adler has a beautiful voice and dances up a storm in the tap-dance production number “King of New York” that opens the second act.

Other cast stand-outs include Stanton Allen as Pultizer, Eliza K. Hall as Vaudeville thrush Medda Larkin and Ryland Despain in a cameo  as Theodore Roosevelt.

The show’s ensemble of newsboys are at their best when they are singing and dancing — a nearly non-stop, joyous experience for the audience.

Most of the choreography by Sharli Davis King calls more for athleticism and enthusiasm than grace, but the dancers provide all three in spades.

The production numbers also featured breathtaking performances by lead dancers Roberto Silva-Neto and Jessica Cerreta, including cartwheels and backflips all over the stage.

Newsies will continue to be performed at the Pickleville Playhouse through Aug. 16 in repertory with the original western misadventure “Welcome to Dangerville.”

The Pickleville Playhouse is located at 2049 South Bear Lake Boulevard in Garden City.



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