Review of “Newsies”

Jansen Preston and Remy Ricciardi

Disney’s 2017 musical rendition of Newsies’ is based on the New York City newsboys Strike of 1899. The musical is about a group of teenagers living in New York City, and they are struggling to battle bigger dreams and rising paper prices. The three main characters are Jack Kelly, the rebel leader of the newsboys, who wants to reach his dreams of traveling and being an artist, Crutchie, the lovable sidekick who sticks with Jack till the very end, and Katherine, who is a beautiful ally helping the newsboys have a voice.  

Remy: Ok lets start. How did you feel about Newsies?

Jansen: The musical was exceptional. It strayed away from the typical Disney rom-com plot, like shown in High School Musical. It touched on a deeper event, a more serious matter. It incorporated romance, drama, and action to create a piece that tackles equality while also depicting a brotherhood like no other. How did you feel about it? I remember you saying you were a little bored during it. 

Remy: At first, I definitely was bored at some scenes as I felt they were a little dragged out, especially the fight scenes in particular. However, looking back at it, this was an incredible musical that showed masculinity more than the one-dimensional way that we are so accustomed to. 

Jansen: When I was watching it for the first time, I picked up on that early on. The opening number Santa Fe shows two male figures, creating a juxtaposition and showing that masculinity can be expressed in numerous ways. It opens up with Crutchie limping up with a long-sleeve collared shirt and a raggedy vest on. Jack is in a muscle tee and well-fitted clothes, clearly exposing his outer and inner strength to the audience. 

Remy: Jack is also seen in this scene lifting Crutchie up with one hand (damnnnnn). The creators were intentional with the formation of Jack Kelly. He was strong, attractive, and masculine, yet still emotional. In the opening scene, he immediately shares his opinions and dreams to the audience. I liked that he expressed emotions throughout the musical as a lead. It definitely contradicts some of the masculine stereotypes we have nowadays – that men can’t do that. Being a Disney film, kid’s do watch this and it allows them to see that it is acceptable to be strong yet sensitive. 

Jansen: Needless to say, it is also what allowed the brotherhood feeling to emerge. Throughout the musical, the theme is seen and it is even written about in Katherine’s article that she published. It is the main thing that keeps the newsboys together. It drives the storyline, showing that they are one unit that will conquer the inequality they are facing. 

Remy: It is also present in the number “Seize the Day.” This was in fact my favorite number of the musical. From the newspaper slamming on the floor, to the pirouetting, the number was filled with lively and energetic movements. The ripping of the newspaper and the switching back and forth shows their strength and unity. 

Jansen: Christopher Gattelli did a great job choreographing. It takes a lot of precision to choreograph that many cast members whilst using the props they used. They had the pipes up in almost every scene symbolizing the New York buildings, and people had to learn how to run up and down and fight each other. This dance number displayed many themes of the show. It showed brotherhood and unity through the synchronous movements and flips through the air. The flips and jumps also showed bravery, which is another characteristic that the newsboys hold.

Remy: The incorporation of Crutchie into the dance number took it from great to excellent. Because of Crutchie’s condition, he was unable to partake in many of the moves, yet his significance was still felt on the stage. 

Jansen: The different masculine forms were also present within this number. It was filled with pirouettes and graceful moments, yet it was still able to convey this undeniable strength and unity. This is another instance of the musical showing us it is important to be strong and sensitive at the same time.

Remy: Yes, I couldn’t agree more. It was empowering and was the moment where the switch flipped for the boys. This is also when Davey commits fully to the cause. 

Jansen: I am glad you mentioned Davey. I wanted to say something about the leadership dynamic. Davey and Jack were both depicted in well-fitting clothes. Obviously, Davey looked cleaner, but by his outfits and intelligence, I would have pictured him to also be a leader. 

Remy: Yes, but Jack was and he was from the very beginning. No one questioned his authority or even fought for it. It was just an accepted concept. I don’t know if it’s because he has more of these “masculine features” or if it’s because of Davey’s lack of interaction with girls and Jack’s ability to smooth talk. Jack pursued Katherine the whole musical and was extremely confident in this aspect and other parts of his life. 

Jansen: Davey had this awkwardness to him, which may have played into his lack of contact with girls. His younger brother even made a comment about a woman’s long legs, which surprised me that Davey did not. Every main character always ends up having a relationship, especially in Disney movies. It was no shock they ended up together at the end. 

Remy: Did you like their relationship? 

Jansen: I liked that they were brought together at the end. I have seen where people call it sexist or playing to the patriarchy, but I do not think that is the intention and it definitely is not what I saw. 

Remy: Really? I disagree. I wish the girl would have rejected him or continued writing for the newspaper. It seemed as though Katherine wouldn’t be fully happy until she ended up with a boy, and it just took away from her own storyline that she ended up with Jack. 

Jansen: I will stand by it. Jack and Katherine’s relationship is what allowed there to be a solid ending to a musical that fixated on the strikes. It was an added storyline that allowed for more volume within the musical and created a joyful connection for the audience. 

Remy: It would have been more valuable for all the young girls out there watching this musical to see a strong woman lead. This film was dominated by males, and males that were persistent in their remarks about her. If a male lead was given the ability to show emotion, then why shouldn’t a female lead be able to be strong and not have a love interest? I know this is loosely based on an event in history. However, I doubt that these men shared what we would classify as “a feminine side” back then because that was just not widely accepted. So my point is, if the creators changed it to allow these men to show more emotions openly, then why couldn’t they change the end for Katherine? It seemed as though she was giving up part of her passion to be with a man and had settled. 

Jansen: Do you see Katherine’s power questioned anywhere else in the play? 

Remy: Yes, specifically in the song, “Watch What Happens.” She sings about having no clue what she is doing, and she says it repeatedly. It makes the audience question her talent as a writer. She doesn’t exhibit a confident persona, which in the end makes us question her abilities. She also sings about Jack and makes a desirable comment about his looks. She had just previously rejected him numerous times in the scene before, so when hearing this, it just caught me off guard. She went back on everything she just did. She was strong and then basically drooling over him minutes later. The musical painted men in this masculine way, where they could accomplish anything if they set their minds to it, and they never really doubted themselves. 

Jansen: I do see what you are saying. She does accomplish a lot, but it’s these smaller details that make what she accomplished less important than it should be. She was so confident in front of the men, and then not right afterwards. It would have been incredible to see her, as one of the only women in the show, be strong in her abilities while she was alone too. 

Remy: Overall, the musical has a lot of positive features to it as it shows young kids that masculinity can take many forms. It would have been nice to see Katherine have a different ending, but her talent is not forgotten and it is a start to something. 

Jansen: This musical was good because of the different rom-com feel it had to it, and it portrayed many important themes throughout, such as bravery, sensitivity, confidence, brotherhood, and friendship. The dance numbers were powerful, yet elegant, and the songs were meaningful as well. Overall, I enjoyed this musical more than most. 

“I love you more…than when a guy gets a girl at the end of a book” ~Morgan Wallen~

“Miss Saigon”: The Role of Power and the Patriarchy

JANSEN PRESTON & REMY RICCIARDI

Remy: The Musical Miss Saigon (2016), written by Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil, portrays a tragic, doomed love story between a young Asian woman (Kim) and a white, American soldier (Chris). The story takes place in Vietnam as the war is going on. With Kim’s parent’s death, her refusal to marry Thuy, and the lack of opportunities for women, Kim has no other choice than to work at Dreamland, a Saigon bar and brothel. As Kim enters this world, she is told that these American soldiers are her ticket to a better life out of Vietnam. The romance seems to be going smoothly between Chris and Kim until he is abruptly forced out of Saigon with his fellow troops, leaving Kim behind when he goes back to America. This is just another way that Kim has power and happiness taken from her. As the play progresses, the powerlessness of the Vietnamese women is increasingly apparent, and the writers create ways to show this in different settings.  

Jansen: An important part to start this discussion is with the opening numbers as they portray the stark contrast between the role men and women play in the society. The second scene, “The Heat is On in Saigon,” takes place in Dreamland and is representative of the viewpoint of the dominant male figures. Men are seen throwing women’s bodies over their shoulders, controlling the movements of women, and simply dictating them. The red lights aid in the seductive feel, where men can take out their fantasies with no repercussions. The soldiers are seen in their uniforms, which inadvertently adds to their strength, power, and rank, especially representing America.  

Remy: I also think the lyrics of “The Heat is On in Saigon” are important to analyze while watching the number. From the beginning of the song, the men talk about the appearance of the women. The second line is “The girls are hotter than hell,” and although that’s a simple remark, it just foreshadows what the rest of the scene will look like as this comment is made extremely early on. It also could be referring to the women being a distraction from the hell they are living in, meaning the women are better than whatever else they would be doing. The women are seen as objects to be won as the Engineer questions the soldiers if they came to win Miss Saigon. John states to Chris, “I’m gonna buy you a girl.” Neither the Engineer nor the Marines have any regard for the women in terms of seeing them as human. They are numbers and prices that are used for pleasure solely. Likewise, the raunchy costumes the women wear work to emphasize the idea of them as objects meant for male utilization. The women are in jeweled bras, heels, and booty shorts, demonstrating their inferiority to the muscular men.   

Jansen: Yes! This juxtaposition is apparent with the interruption of “The Heat is On in Saigon” with “The Movie in my Mind.” This is now told from the woman’s perspective as Gigi sheds light on their feelings on what they do and the society they live in. The slapping of Gigi by the Engineer leads into the song as she sits in a more depressing manner. The lights no longer are red; they have turned into a light white-blue color. The chaos in the back is less apparent as people are moving slower and the women are with the men. Gigi sits with a somber look on her face, and the pain in her voice can be felt as she reaches these higher notes. She sings, “when I make love it won’t be me,” showing the emptiness in what she does. The women turn to prostitution because they see it as the only option; they do not enjoy it or even want to. How would you say the background and choreography contribute to the scene?

Remy: In the background of this number, men are seen aggressively shoving women to the side and forcing their legs open, making the audience feel for the girls while they hear what is being sung. The choreography of this scene is a lot different compared to the previous one due to it being less chaotic. The other shade of lighting takes away from the seductive feel and gives rise to the straight control of the men. Less people are walking around, allowing Gigi and Kim’s facial expressions to be available to the audience. The lack of movement during “The Movie in my Mind” works to the advantage of the women because it allows the audience to take in everything at once. Do you think the setting and props are important throughout the play or just in this scene? 

Jansen: I would say that the design of the stage is an important part of the show. For example, at Dreamland, the amount of props and people on stage creates a hectic feeling; whereas, the scene with the bedroom area is isolated and has a more yellow lighting. The audience can feel the intimacy between the two characters, starting to create this love story aspect. During these peaceful moments, we hear Chris and Kim reveal their feelings for one another. Chris tells Kim what she wants to hear. Chris holds the power. He is her ticket out, and he has her heart in his hands. What do you think? 

Remy: Yes, I agree that the props, background, and number of people on stage helped convey the power of men and overall the weakness of the Vietnamese people, especially women. Another example of how the design furthers the plot is when Thuy dies. When Kim shoots Thuy, everything else on the side of the stage seems to disappear. Everything goes black with white, narrow lightning. The background has rows of military men. This depiction between the body on the ground and the men behind them helps illustrate male power and authority. 

Jansen: I agree, and it was also during this scene that I started to pay attention to the way characters were singing. For example, Thuy was singing in his deepest register, allowing him to convey his power and anger through his voice. Kim and Gigi sang with their mouths wide open and vivid facial expressions of desperation, allowing the audience to see their hopelessness, vulnerability, and Kim’s dependence on Chris. Also, the Engineer always sang with his mouth closed and teeth showing, conveying greed.

Remy: I am glad you mentioned the Engineer because honestly, I am not a big fan of the Engineer. The audience is forced into laughing at him on numerous occasions because of the awkward situations he creates for himself and his vulgar, childish mannerisms. I think this laughter is a result of wanting to fill the silence. In “The American Dream” performance, there were many scenarios where I did not think to laugh, but the audience laughed due to tension. It seemed as though it was an intentional tactic by Schonberg and Boublil to ease tensions in the audience to maintain the enjoyableness of the play. Going along with the male superiority seen in this musical, the fact that the Engineer gets an 11 o’clock number is strange. He is not a character that the audience is dying to hear from, but it represents his desire to steal the stage from those more deserving. 

Jansen: Going off of that, I would say that “The American Dream” was a great representation of the entire musical because it depicted the men’s greed and entitlement, especially the Engineer. The flashing lights, the underdressed showgirls, the gaudy car, the flashy purple suit he had on, and the embarrassingly distasteful choreography was all depicting the greed he had and the sense of entitlement that men in this musical often feel. It was a strange but important performance. 

Remy: Overall, I think the plot of this musical is brilliant. It is not a typical setting or storyline of a musical, but the authors use this idea to convey a message and story to the audience. The musical is male-driven and focuses on the horrible situation these girls are put in and the lack of power they are given in the story. For example, even in moments when Kim should have all the power of a scene, they find a way to give the power back to the men. In the scene where Thuy is trying to take Kim back to marry her to honor their father’s vow, she should have the power to say no, but then Chris pulls out a gun to shift the focus on the conflict between Chris and Thuy. 

Jansen: Another running theme throughout this musical is the power dynamic between the Vietnamese and Americans. It constantly seems like the Vietnamese people are looking to the Americans for them to save them. The Engineer, Kim, Gigi, etc, all wanted to be saved by Americans or go to America. This is similar to the theme of male and female power throughout the musical as well. 

Remy: At the end of the play, Kim put the white gown back on. This was significant because it shows that she relinquished her power again. When Kim was on the run in rag-like clothing, she had some power; however, the dirty, uncomfortable clothes made her seem less feminine in those moments. For example, her clothing when she killed Thuy was filthy and dark versus the white gown she had on in the beginning and end of the musical. This is representative of her lack of power and freedom. Kim shot herself in the white gown in a moment she felt as if she had no control over her life anymore and wanted to end it. 

Jansen: I agree. The point you made and all the points we have made work to convey this larger idea of powerlessness and helplessness in the life of Vietnamese women. It also conveys the greed and controlling nature of the men and the power gap between the Vietnamese and Americans. These are all important things to point out because noticing them helps us fix them.

The PROM Character Analysis

Jansen Preston

In the Musical Movie, “The PROM”, James Corden plays a character named Barry Glickman. He is cast as a middle-aged gay male who is a dying thespian on Broadway. His character, despite the looks of it in the beginning, is very complex and important to the story. His first words in the movie make the audience immediately despise his character because of his narcissistic manner. He says, “…there is no difference in the president of the United States and a celebrity. We both have power. The power to change the world (The Prom).” A side plot of the movie is how these Broadway celebrities try to become good. Barry becomes quite lovable as the movie progresses because we get to see his personal struggles and how he helps Emma overcome her struggles and become one of her best friends.

Barry finds out about Emma and the injustice that is taking place in Indiana. She is not allowed to go to her Prom because of her sexual orientation. Barry and his thespian friends want to boost their PR, but their intentions become less and less about boosting their public image once they get to Indiana and meet Emma. The reason Barry is such an important character in this story is because of his sexual orientation as well. Corden chooses to play into stereotypes for his role of Barry Glickman. Some may consider this to be an inappropriate decision by Corden because it could be more empowering to gays if he plays the character in a more specific and moving way. However, as we discussed in class, he could have decided to play into stereotypes because gay men of that age often dressed and acted as he portrayed in the movie. It was their way of connecting with their community and finding shelter from the harsh, judgmental people in the world.

The musical producers had Barry’s character reflect through his songs as well. Barry sings a very narcissistic song at the start of the movie as well, and his songs become more and more heartfelt as he becomes a better person and starts to break down his own personal barriers. The best song of Barry Glickman is the song in Act 2 where he is singing about what he should have done when he was younger at the Prom. He is realizing his mistakes and owning them and owning himself, showing that he has fully accepted himself as a gay man and now as a good person instead of a dramatic narcissist.

James Corden’s Barry brought me a lot of joy in the performance towards the end. He accepted himself and gained self-confidence, he reconnected with his mom, and he admitted his flaws and helped Emma have the experiences as a gay teen that he never got to experience himself. A defining moment for Barry at the end of the movie was when he initiated the act of putting in a credit card to pay for a new Prom for Emma despite him being bankrupt. This truly turned his character around in the eyes of the audience. You can nitpick all the flaws that Corden presents and all the stereotypes that Corden plays into, but the truth is that his character is important in this movie because he helps empower Emma and give her the experiences she deserves, and he helps the audience understand the injustices that happen towards the LGBTQI+ Community.

This photo shows the difference in his character. The first photo is when he is narcissistic, and this is at the Prom that he helped make for Emma. He looks much more genuine and happier in this picture.

 I believe that this movie has flaws in its character presentations only if you do not view the movie as a movie for straight people. I believe this movie was meant for straight people to interact with because of how it leans into stereotypes with the characters, especially Barry, Emma, and the popular girls. I think the stereotypes seen are intentional in order to make the characters more understandable and more interactive.