Don't judge me, OK? My daughter and I shared Father's Day this year taking in the buoyant raucous joy of Newsies on Broadway. Real men don't love Newsies, right?
Broadway productions, to me, had brought to mind sanguine, syrupy sweet expressions of heart-felt stories spun with punctuations bursting in song and dance in a filigreed fairy land. Such performances are for the romantic, the Pollyanna, hearts all a flutter, feigning fainting as their favorite star parades by.
Sitting in the front row with my young daughter as the waves of Newsies washed over us shattered that candy-colored picture. Such vantage point was steps away from the conductor and orchestra, normally camouflaged in the recessed orchestra pit below the stage. We were close enough to view every nuance of the conductor's cues, far more complex than rhythmic waving of the baton; his closed eyes and bobbing head seemed equally important to this musicians. The show began with Jeremy Jordan's quiet, longing song, wistfully evoking the natural beauty of Santa Fe, a serene place calling his character beyond the grime and brutal competition to sell newspapers on the streets of 19th century New York City.
I began to question myself. Surely I could not really enjoy such an overblown performance (I am far more comfortable listening to the New York Philharmonic, to Anne Sophie Mutter playing her heart out via Mozart, to Linkin Park with its forthright tapestry of emotions); this display -- sponsored by Disney -- is for an audience such as my own ten year old daughter, isn't it? Men could not -- should not -- enjoy such a display of god knows what. We are meant to go crazy over robust Romanesque battles of professional sports, complete with grunts and head on collisions leading to victory amidst bruises, blood and possible permanent injury of the opponent. No subtleties there.
Actor Jeremy Jordan signs my daughter's program, as I stand crushed amongst hundreds of Newsies fans standing on tip toe begging for his attention (author's photograph.)
But, next to my daughter -- or regardless -- I began to become drawn in by the purity of the actors' voices and performance. The story spun out through the traditional Broadway modes of spoken dialogue, song and dance, but it was done in such a way that there was constant forward momentum and bursting energy. The dancing alone expressed the characters' strife and angst as they battled the manipulative power broker Pulitzer, squeezing every penny he could out of these young street urchins, mostly teens and tweens. Pulitzer's say ruled the day at the time; in his words, "If it's not in the newspaper, it didn't happen." Now that's power!
We could feel the actors pounding the stage with feet, rolling bodies being sprung about. Countless articles and blogs chronicle this tale, so I will spare the reader any repetition. Suffice it to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this performance that I had joined cautiously, suspiciously and maybe even a bit ashamed as no "real man" could enjoy such a thing. The actors, along with my young daughter, taught me otherwise. To fathers with young daughters -- you can't go wrong with this one.