Homeentertainment newsReview: In ‘The Outsiders,’ a New Song for the Young Misfits

Review: In ‘The Outsiders,’ a New Song for the Young Misfits

For countless adolescents feeling out of place and dreamers alike, S.E. Hinton’s “The Outsiders,” first appearing in 1967, continues to be a revered piece of literature. The book, which Hinton wrote while she was a teenager in high school, resonates with a sincere perspective on the struggles of youth. Despite the depiction of socio-economic rivalries between the “greasers” and the affluent “socs” feeling like artifacts from a bygone era of turmoil, their unrefined desires and Hinton’s conviction in the innate poetic nature of every individual remain timeless.

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Francis Ford Coppola’s 1983 film adaptation, which featured several future stars but was disappointingly disjointed, served as an example of how these delicate qualities present a challenge for theatrical adaptations. The essence of the book, with its raw emotion and innocence, resists being polished for the stage or diluted for mass appeal. The harsh reality, combined with a sense of naivety, is pivotal to its charm and message. Therefore, bringing “The Outsiders” to life as a Broadway musical, with all the inherent spectacle of song and dance, initially appears to be a grave misjudgment, perhaps more so than the movie.

Nevertheless, the musical rendition of “The Outsiders” that premiered last Thursday has been crafted with such heartfelt dedication and authenticity that it remarkably retains much of its original spirit. The youthful energy of the cast is fundamental to this success; although not teenagers themselves—their vocal prowess far exceeds that of typical teenagers—they convincingly bring a youthful zest to the stage. This includes five of the nine lead actors making their Broadway debuts, embodying their roles with a lack of cynicism that is truly invigorating to witness.

Director Danya Taymor’s intensely immersive direction is crucial to the potency of the production, albeit occasionally at the sacrifice of narrative clarity. The visual and emotional spectacles unfolding on the Bernard B. Jacobs Theater stage, resonating deeply with the audience, underscore the production’s impact.

The show strikes a chord, particularly with younger viewers, who are seldom presented with such earnest explorations of their tumultuous years in contemporary musical theater. Unlike the fantastical adventures of witches, princesses, and explorative newsboys, “The Outsiders” confronts reality head-on. The setting, a divided Tulsa, Oklahoma, marked by stark violence and territorial disputes, is portrayed without any pretense.

The inevitable romance between 14-year-old greaser Ponyboy Curtis (played by Brody Grant) and soc Cherry Valance (Emma Pittman) acts more as a narrative device than a central focus, given minimal musical expression. Instead, the story delves into the lives of the greasers, exploring the bonds of brotherhood and loyalty among them through its musical numbers, not unlike the relationship dynamics in “West Side Story.”.

The core narrative, however, revolves around Ponyboy and Johnny Cade (Sky Lakota-Lynch), as their lives spiral into chaos following a violent altercation. Their journey is met with heartache and tragedy, faithfully adapted from Hinton’s original novel.

Adapting such a densely packed narrative into a 2-hour and 25-minute musical inevitably leads to compromises, with some events feeling rushed or underexplored. While the novel’s first-person narrative is maintained through direct-audience addresses by Ponyboy, it sometimes detracts from the immediacy of the unfolding drama.

The musical scores, crafted by Johnstown Revival, blend folk and rock into poignant ballads, capturing high emotional moments, notably with the stirring “Stay Gold.”. However, the lack of variety and somewhat generic lyrics occasionally fall short of furthering character development.

The production’s design, minimalist yet reconfigurable, captures the changing emotional landscapes effectively. The collaboration of set, lighting, costume, and special effects designers brings to life the story’s intense moments with striking vividness.

Surprisingly, “The Outsiders” musical, with its core of authenticity and sincerity, thrives under the guidance of industry insiders. It remains a faithful adaptation, unafraid to embrace its earnestness, from quoting Robert Frost to setting Charles Dickens’ “Great Expectations” to music.

Despite its challenges, the musical presents achievements that, while possibly not timeless, resonate powerfully in the present. Echoing Frost, the fleeting nature of its golden moments underscores the inherent beauty and fragility of youth, captured with unexpected grace on the Broadway stage.

Abubakar is a writer and digital marketing expert. Who has founded multiple blogs and successful businesses in the fields of digital marketing, software development. A full-service digital media agency that partners with clients to boost their business outcomes.

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