Vulnerability, victimization, and humanity in ‘The Outsiders’ at Broadway’s Jacobs Theatre

A stirring new musical adaptation of S.E. Hinton’s 1967 coming-of-age novel and Francis Ford Coppola’s 1983 film, The Outsiders, with a book by Adam Rapp with Justin Levine, and music and lyrics by Jamestown Revival (Jonathan Clay and Zach Chance) and Levine (who also provided the music supervision, orchestrations, and arrangements), has made its Broadway debut at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, following a world-premiere run at California’s La Jolla Playhouse in February-March 2023. It’s a dynamic, heartrending, and ultimately hopeful story of a smart and sensitive young teen from the wrong side of town caught up in the violence of rival gangs and victimization based on socio-economic status, filled with expressive music, thrilling choreography, and empathetic performances by a breakout cast of triple threats, under the inspired direction of Danya Taymor.

Brody Grant (center) and members of the cast. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

The show is framed in the device of the central protagonist and narrator Ponyboy Curtis, a member of the Greasers gang of outcasts who lost both his parents in a horrific accident, reading to us from his notebook about the incidents that occurred in 1967, when he was fourteen, in his hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Portrayed by the outstanding Brody Grant, reprising his award-winning role in La Jolla with an unforgettable launch of his Broadway career, Ponyboy reflects on his journey through unspeakable loss, vicious bullying and attacks, bonding with his chosen family of have-nots, escaping his pain and vulnerability through friendship and sharing, reading and writing, appreciating the poetic beauty of the sun’s fleeting golden light, and resolving, in spite of all his struggles, to “stay gold.” It’s a performance that fully embodies the humanity of the sympathetic character and keeps you rooting for him as he navigates the inequities of society and the road to self-discovery, and delivers songs brimming with feeling in a beautiful resonant voice that is at once sensitive and powerful.

The cast. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

As with Grant, every member of the featured cast and ensemble brings a youthful spirit to the show’s exciting choreography (by Rick Kuperman and Jeff Kuperman), which masterfully combines fight, dance, and acrobatics, slow-motion and stop-action movement, and meaning to the country/folk-style songs, with stellar vocals and harmonies that communicate all the thoughts and sentiments inherent in the story. Among the standouts are Sky Lakota-Lynch as Johnny Cade, Ponyboy’s loyal best friend, sad and damaged by an abusive family, who goes to all lengths to save him (and others); Joshua Boone as Dallas Winston, a wanderer from NYC with a criminal record and leader of the Greasers, who provides support and advice to the younger Ponyboy, cares deeply for Johnny, whom he sees as a little brother, and is devastated by the tragic turn of events; and Brent Comer as Ponyboy’s older brother Darrel, who, as a young man, stepped into the role of parenting after the death of their mother and father, provides for him and his easygoing brother Sodapop (well played by Jason Schmidt), and, to steer the promising future he sees in him, gives him the tough love that fractures their relationship.

Sky Lakota-Lynch and Joshua Boone. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

From the other side of town are the affluent Socs, the gang of privileged “Socials” who taunt and assault the Greasers, led by Kevin William Paul as the convincingly hateful Bob, violently provoked when he sees his girlfriend Cherry Valance (played with sweetness, strength, and compassion by the golden-throated Emma Pittman) talking to Ponyboy, sharing their love of books, a growing understanding, and budding friendship, which triggers the chain of deadly events and the explosive gang fight between the Socs and the Greasers (which, in one of the show’s meaningful updates, includes a racial, ethnic, and gender diversity of members, not the all-white gang of the book and movie – one of whom is subjected to a now timely unprovoked act of police brutality).

Kevin William Paul, Emma Pittman, and members of the cast. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

The opposing gangs and their economic classes are readily identifiable in Sarafina Bush’s distinctive costumes and hair and wigs by Alberto “Albee” Alvarado, with make-up by Tishonna Ferguson that indicates their black-and-blue bruising and bloody fight wounds. A framework set of metal and wood, contrasting cars, stacks of tires, and wooden planks (scenography by AMP, featuring Tatiana Kahvegian) transitions easily from one scene to the next, and also includes the natural elements of earth, water, fire, and air that we all experience and are impacted by, regardless of our social standing (special effects by Jeremy Chernick and Lillis Meeh). The action is enhanced with sound by Cody Spencer and dramatic sound effects by Taylor Bense, evocative mood lighting by Brian MacDevitt, and projections by Hana S. Kim that make manifest the golden sunrise and sunset that inspire Ponyboy and his dreams of a better life in a world that might never accept him.

Brody Grant (front left) and members of the cast. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Through its highly sensitive songs, stunning choreography, telling design, deeply moving performances, and profoundly affecting underdog perspective, with a star turn by Brody Grant, The Outsiders takes a classic of modern literature and film to new heights on Broadway, so get your tickets – and don’t forget to bring your tissues.

Running Time: Approximately two hours and 20 minutes, including an intermission.

The Outsiders plays through Sunday, September 1, 2024, at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, 242 West 45th Street, NYC. For tickets (priced at $89-299, including fees), call (212) 239-6200, or go online.


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