First and foremost, let’s get one thing clear. Jeremy Jordan should not be allowed to look that good climbing up a fire escape. What can I say, I’m a nineteen-year-old female who isn’t blind, sure I’m going to swipe right (on Tinder) for the one and only Jack Kelly. I mean I guess we should really be thanking Justin Huff, for casting this Disney’s Newsies production to feature eye candy for days as the stage fills the majority with male ensemble members. Would the production be less beloved and entertaining if some of the newsies were female? What do you think?
So, what would one expect from watching this high-energy show? This specific production directed by Jeff Calhoun and Brett Sullivan explores the journey and adventures of Newsies in New York trying to meet ends meet, led by a heroic Jack Kelly. Jack and his buddy Crutchie (don’t worry we will get to him later), along with the rest of the Newsies in Manhattan need to sell their “papes” in order to have food on the table, but when mean, old Pulitzer raises the prices of the newspapers, something had to be done. That’s where our heart-eyed Jack Kelly comes in.
Filmed in 2017, this rendition of Newsies is up to date and looking to appeal to the audience of well, us. Teenagers to young adults who love the high energy of jumps and kicks, with a little bit of adventure and of course a love interest. As a cherry on top, they cast Jeremy Jordan for our lead. From his physical appearance, Kelly is strong and fit, not to a point where he looks scary, but just enough that people will worship at his feet. He shows his masculinity in other ways besides his appearance. For example, it comes through in his chase for Katherine. Being masculine meant then, drawing pictures of her on papes and distracting her from her work. Sure, ladies love a man who is a strong alpha male lead, but more importantly, a man is someone who cares and protects his family. Like Jack does for Crutchie.
When Jack Kelly comes on stage, jaws drop at his physique. When Crutchie comes on stage, smiles and laughter come from every person to the audience. Does that make Crutchie less of a man than Jack? Definitely not.
We first see Crutchie with Jack on the fire escape where they live trying to leave early so that no one notices his limp. He is already at a physical disadvantage in the game of selling papes and he needs no pity from his buddies. And that is what makes him masculine. Crutchie’s character is independent even though he doesn’t need to be. He would and did, risk his life for the rest of the Newsies and never looked back in regret. In “Letter from the Refuge”, he can laugh off the fact that he was taken from Snyder and look towards the future, not the past. This internal masculinity is just as strong on the Broadway stage as Jack’s is physical. Both are leaders paving the way for others like them.
Now we can’t talk about Newsies without talking about the dance numbers. Growing up in the dance competition world maybe I’m a little crazy about analyzing every leap and kick. Also, being surrounded by that environment I noticed the lack of male dancers where I grew up. Sure, I’m from a little suburban town in New Jersey, but even competing with studios in New York, the male talent was rare. Even if a boy went on stage at a competition, cried, ran off, they would likely get “brownie points” and beat out half the girls. So, to my surprise when Newsies was a fully casted male, an ensemble performing elite dance numbers and tap productions, it was a dream come true.
Dance is traditionally not seen as a masculine sport. Some don’t say it’s a sport at all (We can talk about this controversial topic if you want). But when Newsies put 30 so men on stage in tap shoes, dancing on tabletops and on newspapers, I would say that was creating masculinity that simply avoided the toxicity. I did however notice that Jack Kelly was not in many of the large dance numbers like “King of New York”. Was it because it was more feminine, and they wanted Jack Kelly to be portrayed as the alpha male? Maybe Jeremey Jordan just didn’t have time to brush up on his flaps and shuffles.
Disney’s Newsies took masculinity defined as “qualities or attributed as characteristics of men” and showed how many different ways a man can be masculine. Although the musical never mentioned the sexuality of the other characters, many were assumed to be straight based on their dialogue and interactions. They were seen as masculine simply by their determination to fight the system. Even though not everyone was a leader, some even fell short (but we still love you Crutchie), they all brought out the characteristic of a strong man.
P.S there’s no way I could choose between Crutchie and Jack Kelly. Obviously, you have to swipe right on both of them and just hope it’s a match 🙂