©Disney. Photo by Deen van Meer. See boys dance, see boys jump.
Newsies is Annie with boys. And not young boys either, at least not the cast of the touring production currently tapping, back-flipping and flexed-foot kicking across the stage at the Winspear Opera House. These aren't moppets or teenagers. This is a bunch of cute but short-statured young men pretending to be way younger than they are. (One of the leads has a bald spot, which he tries to keep covered with his newsboy cap.)
They're supposed to be orphans around the age of the tykes in Oliver! But this passel of 1899 parentless boys live in squalor and earn pennies a day, not picking pockets in the streets of old London, but hawking newspapers for a penny a pop in New York City's five boroughs. Exhausting work indeed. Despite meager diets and exposure to the elements, these lads still have enough gumption to dance and sing enthusiastically of seizing the day, carrying the banner and having something to believe in, once and for all. (Those clichés are all song titles in this show. Lyricist Jack Feldman, writing words for Alan Menken's relentlessly perky soundalike tunes, works a cliché-ridden anthem like a dog with a bone.)