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Review: ‘The Outsiders’ is a new coming-of-age musical on Broadway

On Thursday, April 11, “The Outsiders” musical officially premiered on Broadway at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre in New York City.

The Greasers in the cast of 'The Outsiders' music on Broadway
The Greasers in the cast of 'The Outsiders' music on Broadway. Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy.
The Greasers in the cast of 'The Outsiders' music on Broadway. Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy.

On Thursday, April 11, “The Outsiders” musical officially premiered on Broadway at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre in New York City. It was directed by Danya Taymor, with music and lyrics by Jamestown Revival (Jonathan Clay and Zach Chance) and Justin Levine.

The production is based on the novel of the same name by S. E. Hinton, the book by Adam Rapp and Justin Levine, and the 1983 film that was directed by Francis Ford Coppola.

Speaking of Justin Levine, he is also responsible for its music supervision, orchestration, and arrangements. Matt Hinkley is the music director and co-orchestrator.

The musical is set in 1967 Tulsa, Oklahoma. It is a harrowing tale of teen class war between the low-income “Greasers” and highbrow “Socs,” where viewers can recall “West Side Story” meets “Grease.”

Ponyboy Curtis (Brody Grant) and his best friend Johnny Cade (Sky Lakota-Lynch) and their “Greaser” family of outsiders are battling with the affluent Socs.

The complex characters are able to navigate the challenges of self-discovery as the Greasers dream about who they want to become in a world that may or may not accept them in return.

All of the fight scenes and dance sequences were expertly choreographed by Rick Kuperman and Jeff Kuperman (also compliments to fight captain Henry Julian Gendron).

Brody Grant is a true force of nature as Ponyboy, where he layers his emotions well and showcases a great deal of inner strength. Grant isn’t afraid to be raw and vulnerable, and his vulnerability is the viewer’s reward. Grant’s acting performance runs the gamut, and he is poised for stardom. It felt like watching the Tokyo Summer Olympic Games all over again, and Grant was our Caeleb Dressel (Olympic gold medalist and world record holder swimmer).

Sky Lakota-Lynch and Brody Grant in 'The Outsiders' on Broadway
Sky Lakota-Lynch and Brody Grant in ‘The Outsiders’ on Broadway. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Sky Lakota-Lynch is the heart and soul of this production as Johnny Cade, where most of his scenes will leave the audience drenched in a wide spectrum of feelings.

Both Grant and Lakota-Lynch will break the audience’s hearts in pieces only to stitch it back up again. In many instances, people will forget that they are watching a Broadway show, and it will feel as if they are experiencing real life with these characters.

Jason Schmidt and Brody Grant in 'The Outsiders' on Broadway
Jason Schmidt and Brody Grant in ‘The Outsiders’ on Broadway. Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy

Jason Schmidt is remarkable as Sodapop since he manages to make this role his own by staying true to himself and his own artistry (Rob Lowe, who played Sodapop in the 1983 movie, would be proud of Schmidt’s portrayal of his character).

Brent Comer is the voice of reason as the firm but fair older brother Darrel Curtis, who takes on the parent role in the Curtis household, where the viewer can recall Rider Strong in “Boy Meets World” meets Leonardo DiCaprio in both “The Basketball Diaries” and “The Departed.”

Brody Grant, Jason Schmidt, Brent Comer and Sky Lakota-Lynch in 'The Outsiders'
Brody Grant, Jason Schmidt, Brent Comer and Sky Lakota-Lynch in ‘The Outsiders.’ Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy

Emma Pittman soars as the female lead Cherry Valance as she allows her angelic soprano voice to shine.

Kevin William Paul is able to humanize the nefarious character Bob, and he also takes on the role of the police officer later on in the production.

The Socs in the cast of 'The Outsiders' music on Broadway
The Socs in the cast of ‘The Outsiders’ music on Broadway. Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy.

Joshua Boone and Daryl Tofa are impressive in the roles of Dallas Winston and Two-Bit respectively.

“The Outsiders” musical fulfills the ensemble cardinal rule, where every actor is given his or her own characterization. It has a stirring and infectious musical score that will resonate with the listening audience.

There wasn’t a dry eye in the theatre when Sky Lakota-Lynch performed “Stay Gold” with Brody Grant (who harmonized well with Lakota-Lynch and didn’t upstage him, thus displaying a great amount of respect).

The same holds true when Grant belted out “Great Expectations” with the cast. Simply put, these are powerhouse performances that should have “Tony gold” written all over it.

Previously, Grant was recognized with the 2023 Craig Noel Award for “Outstanding Lead Performance in a Musical” by the San Diego Theatre Critics Circle, for playing Ponyboy, and if there is any justice, that ought to translate into a 2024 Tony Award.

“The Outsiders’ musical isn’t just a show, it’s an experience,” Huner Pritchard, fan and attendee said. “You will be right there in the rumble. It will have you crying, laughing, and aching with the raw intensity of these characters. A must-see for all ages that have read the book, seen the movie, or just a newcomer.”

The Verdict

Overall, “The Outsiders” musical on Broadway is a coming-of-age story for the ages. It puts fans into a time warp to 1960’s Tulsa.

There is an honesty, rawness, and authenticity to it like no other. It should be up for every Tony and Drama Desk Award, and it should be winning everything.

Strong performances from the whole cast (led by Brody Grant and Sky Lakota-Lynch) give this musical its beating heart. Every actor, dancer, and ensemble member in this show brings something unique to the table, and they all make it work.

Speaking of ensemble actors, these include Barton Cowperthwaite, Tilly Evans-Krueger, RJ Higton, Sean Harrison Jones, Renni Anthony Magee, SarahGrace Mariani, Melody Rose, Josh Strobl, and Trevor Wayne.

This compelling stage production has it all: fighting, a suspenseful rainstorm, spitting, a church fire, smoke, rumble, and characters nearly drowning. It ought to be enjoyed for its beauty, melancholy, and depth.

The church fire scene in 'The Outsiders' musical on Broadway
The church fire scene in ‘The Outsiders’ musical on Broadway. Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy

Director Danya Taymor deserves to be commended for her direction and vision. Taymor is able to breathe fresh life into S. E. Hinton’s book, as well as Francis Ford Coppola’s epic movie.

The themes from the original film are maintained and the audience is able to see this story in a newer and more contemporary light.

It’s a story of friendship, bonding, family, chosen family, belonging, introspection, hope, and redemption. By the end, the audience will realize that there is still a lot of good in the world.

It will certainly spark meaningful conversations among viewers, especially since they can apply the lessons learned from this musical and screenplay in their own personal lives.

The cast and crew are able to make something special that is greater than the sum of its parts. Most importantly, its message is gloriously empowering.

For anybody who is unfamiliar with the book or classic movie, this musical would be a great introduction to “The Outsiders” world, which consists of The Greasers and The Socs.

“The Outsiders” musical is captivating, high-octane, refreshing, and it garners five out of five stars. Bravo.

To learn more about “The Outsiders” musical, check out its official homepage.

Markos Papadatos
Written By

Markos Papadatos is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for Music News. Papadatos is a Greek-American journalist and educator that has authored over 21,000 original articles over the past 18 years. He has interviewed some of the biggest names in music, entertainment, lifestyle, magic, and sports. He is a 16-time "Best of Long Island" winner, where for three consecutive years (2020, 2021, and 2022), he was honored as the "Best Long Island Personality" in Arts & Entertainment, an honor that has gone to Billy Joel six times.

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