The Outsiders

Original Broadway Cast, 2024 (Masterworks Broadway)  3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5) The Outsiders followed the popular book-to-movie-to-musical path and arrived on Broadway in 2024. It started out as a novel written by teenage author S.E. Hinton, published in 1967, about two rival groups of teenagers separated by social status — the lower class greasers and the upper class “Socs.” The novel quickly became a staple for high school reading and was further ingrained in American culture via the 1983 Francis Ford Coppola film, with a cast of future stars including Tom Cruise and Rob Lowe. The musical retains much of the novel’s heavy plot and all of its earnestness, with songs by Broadway newcomers Jonathan Clay, Zach Chance, and Justine Levine. While the score pulsates with folk rhythms and country melodies, many of the lyrics are less than adept — for example, “It’s hard to write the story when the story’s writing me,” “It’s Friday night and it feels so right.” The novel was written in the first-person perspective, and the musical’s creators have not found a fully satisfactory way of balancing the exposition from the source material with the necessary dramatic elements required to tell the story on stage and through song. The main protagonist, a 14-year-old named Ponyboy Curtis (played and sung with sensitivity by Brody Grant), is a member of the greasers gang along with Johnny Cade (Sky Lakota Lynch), Sodapop (Jason Schmidt), Dally (Joshua Boone), and Ponyboy’s older brother, Darrel (Brent Comer). Despite violent confrontations between the rival gangs, Ponyboy makes a connection with one of the “Soc” girls, Cherry Valance (Emma Pittman). Refreshingly, though, the show avoids a Romeo and Juliet-like romantic storyline by focusing on the fraternal relationships among the greasers.  In addition to the first few numbers being loaded down by exposition delivered directly to the audience, the score sometimes leans towards melodrama (for example, “Death’s at My Door” and “Throwing in the Towel”). But happily, when the conflict between the two gangs escalates, The Outsiders finds its footing and amps up the excitement in songs such as “Justice for Tulsa” and “Trouble.” The Dally character  gets two stellar musical moments, the jazzy “Little Brother” and “Run Run Brother,” while the 11 o’clock number, “Stay Gold,” sung by Ponyboy and Johnny Cade, has the show’s most endearing melody, despite a distracting amount of reverb on this recording. All of the songs are aided mightily by Justine Levine’s fantastic orchestrations. — Forrest Hutchison