Ryerson Musical Theatre Company takes on Disney’s “Newsies”

Photo by Monique Timlick.

The Ryerson Musical Theatre Company is performing Disney’s Newsies at the Al Green Theatre in Toronto this week — and the show is phenomenal.

Founded in December 2014, RMTC was created as an opportunity for students to express their love for musical theatre on stage. Their past productions have included Into the Woods, The Drowsy Chaperone and Thoroughly Modern Millie. This year, the team decided to take on the Tony award-winning Broadway musical Newsies.

Newsies premiered at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey in 2011 before making its Broadway debut the following year to an audience of more than 1,000 people. The musical took its inspiration from a book written by actor and playwright Harvey Fierstein, along with music by Alan Menken with lyrics from Jack Feldman, both of whom are heavily involved in the music of Disney films.

The musical is set in 1899 in New York City and centres around newspaper delivery boys, all of whom are among the lower-class citizens of the city, dressed in plaid with patched-up holes on their pants and cream-coloured canvas bags around their shoulders. The boys struggle with selling the papers once the publishers raise distribution prices, but with Jack Kelly, the fearless and strong-headed leader by their side, the group courageously goes on strike, fighting for their rights.

RMTC’s adaptation of Newsies is directed by Isabella Verrilli and was entertaining from beginning to end with every moment getting more thrilling than the last.

The main newsboy Jack Kelly is played by third-year journalism student Mark McKelvie, whose performance was striking considering his captivating take on a New Yorker’s turn-of-the-century accent and his confident stage presence.

Alongside Kelly is Crutchie, a close friend of his who carries a crutch and is played by Colin Darling. His performance is guaranteed to put a smile on your face and he’s truly devoted to playing this character — even during full dance routines, you can still see Crutchie dancing with a limp.

Other star characters include the brother duo Davey and Les Jacobs, played by Ian Kowalski and Natalie Doherty. Davey is the older of the two and is quite knowledgeable about unions, while Les is an eager 10-year-old boy who looks up to Kelly and is determined to take action against the big-wig publishers.

Despite occasional audio issues, the stage presence of each newsboy was filled with passion, especially in their rendition of The World Will Know — the ultimate fight song performance to begin their battle.

Along with the flawless acting, each of the cast members had impeccable voices and several raceful twirls and flips, creating generally smooth dance performances across the board.

The plot even included some romance between Kelly and journalist Katherine, played by Olivia DeRoche. In the musical number Watch What Happens, we see Katherine’s thought process before she begins writing. It’s filled with her going back and forth with her doubts and fears, yet it is very intriguing to watch and DeRoche’s voice was gratifying all the way through the performance.

The show will be running until March 16 and tickets can be bought online at the RMTC website.