Featuring 17 tracks, the exquisitely produced album beautifully captures the energy of the show, while also showcasing composer Alan Menken's lushly melodic score, which carefully blends period sounds of early Tin Pan Alley and with contemporary musical idioms and styles. Perhaps more important, the expertly mixed recording affords listeners the opportunity to savor Jack Feldman's consistently clever lyrics, many of which can be missed as theatergoers are swept up in Jeff Calhoun's production, featuring Christopher Gattelli's athletic choreography.
As with the show itself, Jeremy Jordan's immensely charismatic and powerfully sung performance as Jack Kelly, the 17-year-old "newsie," who leads his buds in a strike against the publishing magnate Joseph Pulitzer, proves to be the central focus of the album. Jordan delivers songs like "Santa Fe," Jack's soaring paean to the life he dreams of out west, with an emotional rawness that blisters, and he imbues the show's ballads, particularly "Something to Believe In," a romantic duet shared with Kara Lindsay, with sweet and affecting innocence.
Lindsay, playing a young reporter who falls for Jack, shines in both this number and in the tricky "Watch What Happens," a tongue-twister of a patter song, in which she expertly captures the character's split second emotional shifts, all the while delivering the tune with clarion precision.
Two other tracks -- and performances -- also shine on the album: John Dossett's oily and compelling turn as Pulitzer is preserved with "The Bottom Line," a cunning ditty that sets the stage for the strike, and Capathia Jenkins, as vaudeville star Medda, brings comic sauciness to "That's Rich," a music hall ditty filled with some gentle, family-friendly double entendres.
All of the company numbers, particularly the beloved "Seize the Day" and "King of New York," which are among the carryovers from the movie on which the show is based, have a delicious crispness to them, and anyone who has seen the show will feel themselves transported back to the Nederlander Theatre as they listen.
It should be noted that the physical recording will feature these tunes in both the incarnations heard on the digital release and in extended bonus tracks, with the dance breaks for songs. The CD will also feature a third bonus track -- a rendition of "Santa Fe," performed by Jordan with Menken at the piano. These additions will undoubtedly enhance the listening experience, and some people may want to wait until May to add the album to their collections. But, given the myriad pleasures of the digital release, there is enough to recommend a double purchase of Newsies.