by Mark G. Auerbach with Benjamin Jacek
Summer’s a great time to introduce young people to live theatre, because the fare is often lighter, the atmosphere is less formal, and there’s no school the next morning. I decided to invite Benjamin Jacek, a high school age pal of mine, who had only seen one professional theatre production–The Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular–for some musical theatre and ice cream. The combination of the Connecticut Repertory Theatre’s production of Disney’s Newsies and ice cream at the UConn Dairy Bar seemed like the perfect double bill. It was. Here are our thoughts.
The Connecticut Repertory Theatre’s Nutmeg Summer Series ends its first season under the helm of Broadway’s Terrence Mann with a production of Disney’s Newsies, the recent Broadway musical hit, which has been touring the country to rave reviews and standing ovations. With a Tony Award-winning score by Alan Menken and Jack Feldman, and book by Harvey Fierstein, Newsies, set in 1899 New York City, tells the story of the famous Newsboy Strike. Originally a movie directed by Kenny Ortega, Newsies was adapted for the stage in 2011, and opened a limited run on Broadway. The show became an overnight hit, and enjoyed a successful run and subsequent national tour. Young Westfield, MA actor Josh Burrage was seen in that tour.
The CRT production of Newsies has brisk direction and high-stepping choreography by Christopher d’Amboise, and the ensemble of athletic young dancers turn almost every move into a combination of balletic leaps, thunderous taps, and some of the most sizzling dance seen on an area stage since An American in Paris played Hartford last year. The big production numbers, “Seize The Day” and “King of New York” are simply fantastic.
ConductorTom McDoough and the small pit band, under the direction of NDavid Williams, brought out the best of Alan Menken’s score, not only in the big numbers, but in the dance arrangements, and some of the more evocative tunes like “Santa Fe” and “Watch What Happens”.
As always, the CRT production elements are great, particularly Fan Zhang’s costumes, and Michael Vincent Skinner’s superlative sound, which balanced the orchestra and the singers.
There are some delightful performances from Jim Schubin as Jack Kelly, leader of the Newsies; Tina Fabrique as the entertainer Medda Larkin; and Paige Smith as Katherine Plumber. The ensemble of Newsies executes d’Amboise’s choreography in a way that makes it look effortless, even though the dance numbers offer challenges.
Ben had studied the newspaper strike in school. “I think they told the story very convincingly. The character of “Jack” spoke to me because he was in charge and everyone respected him. Also, he was the leader of the strike and I found that really cool. I found the scene where the world is trying to break up the strike very exciting, and I really liked the production number when they were getting the press printing”
Ben’s bottom line made me glad that he accompanied us to the theatre. “I would highly recommend Newsies to my friends, and I would like to see another live theatre performance”.
As for me, I found this production of Newsies to be more nuanced than that of the national tour, and Christopher d’Amboise’s choreography was a highlight of my recent theatre-going.
The Connecticut Repertory Theatre presents Disney’s Newsies. Music by Alan Menken. Lyrics by Jack Feldman. Book by Harvey Fierstein. Directed and choreographed by Christopher d’Amboise.. Music direction by NDavid Williams. Scenic design by Tim Brown. Costume design by Fan Zhang. Lighting design by Michael Chybowski. Sound design by Michael Vincent Skinner..Conducted by Tom McDonough. Associate choreographer Kelly Crandall d’Amboise. Through July 16. Harriet S. Jorgensen Theatre. University of Connecticut at Storrs, CT. 860-486-2113 or www.crt.uconn.edu..
Review: The UConn Dairy Bar
by Mark G. Auerbach with Benjamin Jacek
The University of Connecticut at Storrs has put that area on the map. The 4,400 acre campus in rolling farmland has a lot going for it, and it’s only about an hour from Springfield–slightly less if you go the back roads. Many people visit Storrs for the athletics at Gample Pavilion. Others go for the culture at The Jorgensen Center for The Performing Arts, The Connecticut Repertory Theatre, The William Benton Museum of Art, The Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry, and since 1953, The UConn Dairy Bar.
According to Ethan W. Haggerty, Area Manager UC Cafes & Dairy Bar at University of Connecticut Dining Services, “The roots of dairy farming goes back over a century, as UConn was, at one time, an agricultural school. The Dairy Bar churns over 50,000 gallons of ice cream a year, plus makes several cheeses. Two hundred cows provide the milk, and some cream is sourced from outside.”
Haggerty says that The UConn Dairy Bar rotates through about 24 standard flavors and another 12 that are special runs or seasonal. He added that the most popular flavor is Husky Tracks, a mix of vanilla, fudge swirl, and peanut butter cups.
We felt that a taste test was necessary. There were three of us in the tasting group–me, the arts reporter with an eye for delectability; Robert O’Connell, a high school math teacher who can calculate deliciousness; and Benjamin Jacek, a high school senior with significant experience in ice cream consumption. We sampled the Banana Chocolate Chip, Oreo, Cake Batter, and Peach. Ben liked his choices. “They exceeded my expectations, but the peach was the best. It was so creamy and had real pieces of peach. I’d go back and try the strawberry cheesecake on my next visit.” I had to agree with Ben about the peach. Rob smiled after consuming his choice, proof that it was good.
Located amongst rolling hills and a dairy farm, you can see the cows grazing from the parking lot. The Dairy Bar is open year-round, For details on the UConn Dairy Bar: http://dining.uconn.edu/uconn-dairy-bar/
Mark G. Auerbach studied theatre at American University and the Yale School of Drama. He’s worked for arts organizations and reported on theatre for newspapers and radio. Mark produces and hosts ArtsBeat Radio on 89.5fm/WSKB Radio.
Benjamin Jacek is entering his senior year at Minnechaug Regional High School, and is a lifeguard at the Georgetown Condominiums Pool for his second summer.