Around The Town

Five Reasons Why The Outsiders is as Innovative as it is Golden

By: Iris Wiener

April 24, 2024: The new musical adaptation of S.E. Hinton’s classic novel The Outsiders and Francis Ford Coppola’s 1983 film of the same name is a quiet, though gut-punching gem now open in the heart of Broadway. With a title apropos of its nature, the musical is a refreshing, unique journey, and a welcome addition to this season’s onslaught of new productions. Set in 1967 Tulsa, Oklahoma, the musical follows Ponyboy Curtis (Brody Grant), Johnny Cade (Sky Lakota-Lynch), and the family of outliers they have chosen for themselves. As they move through a difficult adolescence they are in a fight for survival amongst a horribly divided class system in a world never likely to accept them. Here are five reasons why The Outsiders is not to miss:

By: Iris Wiener

April 24, 2024: The new musical adaptation of S.E. Hinton’s classic novel The Outsiders and Francis Ford Coppola’s 1983 film of the same name is a quiet, though gut-punching gem now open in the heart of Broadway. With a title apropos of its nature, the musical is a refreshing, unique journey, and a welcome addition to this season’s onslaught of new productions. Set in 1967 Tulsa, Oklahoma, the musical follows Ponyboy Curtis (Brody Grant), Johnny Cade (Sky Lakota-Lynch), and the family of outliers they have chosen for themselves. As they move through a difficult adolescence they are in a fight for survival amongst a horribly divided class system in a world never likely to accept them. Here are five reasons why The Outsiders is not to miss:

1.    Rick and Jeff Kuperman’s choreography is gloriously cinematic in its construction, with high-powered sequences that involve synchronized kicking of grit and gravel (an image so visceral that the grit can practically be tasted from any seat in the house) to a barn-burning feat that is impeccably timed, to the culminating rain-soaked brawl that is breath-taking in its carefully choreographed timing.  The ensemble is one of the hardest working on Broadway, as their innate talent is tested with rain, smoke, fire, dirt, and many other elements that enhance their thrilling strengths. 

2.    Danya Taymor’s staging and direction are electrifying in perfunctory moments where she straddles the line of brutality and violence with poignant, heartfelt staging. (Johnny’s growth and gripping demeanor tug as his life is ripped away, a scene that won’t soon be forgotten.) The dark grittiness is complemented well by the gold undertones, which is paralleled with the warring Socs and Greasers. Taymor keeps Ponyboy and the Greasers moving at all moments, pacing that is integral to the urgency that drives the phenomenal book.  

3.    The folksy score and lyrics from Jamestown Revival (Jonathan Clay and Zach Chance) and Justin Levine is a mash-up of country-twang with a Sara Bareilles touch that makes for a unique theatrical experience. It’s difficult not to get swept up in the perennial story through the sweeping music that tends to reference pop and early rock & roll. From the opening notes of “Tulsa ’67,” audiences are on a journey supported in tone, temperature, and timeliness with the ephemeral music. While many Broadway musicals fall prey to an equation in which the story and action continually pause for emotional songs and dance breaks, The Outsiders’ music and lyrics are purposeful and artful in their deliverance, lacking any mechanization. 

4.    The film’s release in 1983 helped make stars out of Tom Cruise, Diane Lane, Rob Lowe, Patrick Swayze, Ralph Macchio, and others. Due to unforgettable powerhouse performances, the musical stars venerable unknowns who are likely to be gracing the stage for years to come. Brody Grant’s Ponyboy is hypnotic from the moment he says, “It’s hard to write the story when the story is writing me.” His anthem of sorts, “Great Expectations,” an ongoing motif throughout the musical, is beautifully jarring. Sky Lakota-Lynch is equally dynamic and a beautiful contrast to Ponyboy’s lighthearted demeanor. When the duo perform 11 o’clock number “Stay Gold,” it’s difficult to keep the tissues at bay. 

5.    Thanks in part to the exceptional book by Adam Rapp and Justin Levine, the musical’s ability to bring in a new, young audience of avid readers (and the oft-missing demographic of male tweens), The Outsiders musical touches a special place in the musical theatre cannon. In a liner note in the program, S.E. Hinton is quoted as saying, “Writers needn’t be afraid that they will shock their teenage audience. But give them something to hang on to. Show that some people don’t sell out, and that everyone can’t be bought. Do it realistically.  Earn respect by giving it.” Regardless of age, all audiences will be hanging onto this piece, as its estimation is as realistic as they come. Hopefully, this musical’s gold will stay for a long while. 

Emma Pittman (Cherry Valance) & Brody Grant (Ponyboy Curtis) Credit: Mathew Murphy 2024