by Michelle Sandoval

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday June 8, 2018

The ensemble of "Newsies" at the La Mirada Theatre through June 24.
The ensemble of "Newsies" at the La Mirada Theatre through June 24.  

La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts is celebrating two milestones this month: pulling out all the stops and halting the presses at the same time. Playing now through June 24, the iconic theatre presents a new production of Disney's "Newsies." Worthy of making headlines of their own, the talented cast and crew of the Broadway favorite present us with a show that is electrifying as it is newsworthy. Not only does this show bring their exceptional 2017-2018 season to an end, but also marks the theatre's 40th anniversary. What a way to celebrate!

Disney's "Newsies" features music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Jack Feldman and a book by Harvey Fierstein. Directed and choreographed by Richard J Hines, who is joining the theatre from "Come from Away," currently on Broadway, and paired with musical director Brent Crayon, the two combine their extensive theatrical experience for a show full of non-stop song and dance. You could simply feel the excitement from the audience, who exploded into applause after every musical number.

The story takes place in lower Manhattan in the height of the summer of 1899. Responsible for selling newspapers, a group of youngsters is living day-by-day, penny-by-penny. When newspaper powerhouse Joseph Pulitzer decides he's going to raise the price of the paper (or the "pape" as referred to by the group), the boys band together to strike against the hike and form a union. The play is about fighting for what you believe in and having hope in yourself. Hitting some major bumps along the way, the boys roll with each and every punch and exhibit extraordinary bravery against the powerful people of New York. Forming brotherly bonds along the way, and even finding love, the play is as sentimentally touching as it is musically entertaining.

Alex Prakken plays the leader of the bunch, Jack Kelly. What a treat to be able to see this young star bring this character to life. He lit up the stage with every step and note. I could feel the raw emotion dripping from his performance, making the angst these boys went through all the more real. This all culminates in a show-stopping solo performance of "Santa Fe" just before intermission when Prakken gives it his all, sending chills through the audience with a stellar performance. Bravo.

There is, of course, not just one star in the show. The entire cast of young men shines brightly. Much like their story, it is when they all share the stage that they are all at their strongest. Each one has his own personality, bringing something special to the show. The youngest of the bunch is Travis Burnett, who plays Les. Talented beyond his years, this young actor delivered one of the funniest and most memorable performances of the night.

In a show dominated by men, there are two women who stand on their own and bring fierce and powerful femininity that "Newsies" needs. Beth Stafford Laird is Katherine, a reporter trying to make a name for herself in a world that isn't ready to accept her. As a reporter and critic myself, I was able to relate to her character struggles and felt honorable at the strength Katherine showed throughout. Look for her performance of "The World Will Know," it stayed with me long after the curtain dropped.

Also much worth mentioning is Daebreon Poiema as Medda Larkin, the boisterous burlesque club owner. What a powerful voice this actress has, you could feel the audience frozen in their seats, mesmerized by her show-stopping musical numbers. She is feisty and she means business and the comic relief she offers cuts through the grief very prevalent throughout the show.

"Newsies" is definitely one show you don't want to miss. Quickly becoming one of Los Angeles' premiere theatres for Broadway hits, while maintaining the charming and humble quaintness of a hometown playhouse, La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts closes their season with a show worthy of some front page headlines. So, follow the sound of this bunch of ragamuffins for a truly captivating show.

"Newsies" is playing through June 24 at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, located at 14900 La Mirada Blvd. in La Mirada. For more information call 562-944-9801 or visit visit the theater's website.