By Cameron Hughes

The visceral, at times shocking, and surprisingly emotional The Outsiders: A New Musical is playing at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, and what a powerful musical it is. Based on the revered 1967 S.E. Hinton young-adult novel and 1983 Francis Ford Coppola film adaptation of the same name, The Outsiders is energetic, moving, grim, empathetic, and perfectly staged. It’s wonderfully true to the novel’s struggle of teenagers trying to make their way in a world that stereotypes them and diminishes their experiences.

Set in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1967, The Outsiders focuses on a trio of brothers surviving together after the death of their parents. The youngest is 14-year-old Ponyboy Curtis (Brody Grant), the middle brother is charismatic Sodapop Curtis (Jason Schmidt), and the older brother (and pseudo parent) is Darrel Curtis (Brent Comer). Ponyboy serves as the show’s narrator and central focus, and we see events through his eyes.

The brothers and their friends are greasers and they have a rivalry with the local socs (soc, short for “society,” rhymes with “gauche”). The greasers are the poorer somewhat rebellious kids, and the socs are the wealthier privileged kids. The story revolves around their animosity and confrontations.

Other greasers are Johnny Cade (Sky Lakota-Lynch), ex-con Dallas Winston (Joshua Boone), and Two-Bit Mathews (Daryl Tofa). The varsity jacket-wearing socs are less defined here, creating an almost nameless evil Borg-like entity, though there are two prominent characters in Cherry Valance (Emma Pittman) and her boyfriend Bob (Kevin William Paul).

There’s a central friendship between Ponyboy and his best friend Johnny Cade (Sky Lakota-Lynch) who each suffer violent altercations with the socs. Of course, each is smaller than the socs who attack and outnumber them.

One evening Ponyboy chats with the soc Cherry Valance at the neutral-territory drive-in, and inevitably her boyfriend Bob becomes incensed. This sets off a chain of events which drive the show to its emotional finale.

The Outsiders is stunningly staged and choreographed with memorable, original, and balletic fight scenes. Note especially the rumble between the two groups in the rain.

Every actor here is a triple-threat able to act, sing, and dance with surprising proficiency. This is all the more impressive when you realize several of these young lead performers are making their Broadway debuts including Brody Grant, Brent Comer, Jason Schmidt, Daryl Tofa, Kevin William Paul, and Dan Berry. They bring a joyful excitement and surprising confidence to these performances. They toss footballs and props across the stage to each other, often over their shoulders, and (this evening) not a single prop is dropped. And so what if they are? These are young people having fun and if something gets fumbled, does it matter? That’s life! Small things like this bring a refreshing freedom and daring to the show.

There are weaker moments. Lakota-Lynch doesn’t fully convince as Ponyboy’s best friend. We know of Johnny Cade’s traumatic past and see his violent altercations with the socs, and though his twitchy nervous evasiveness is understandable, it doesn’t make for a fully engaging performance. That being said, he has several pivotal and emotional moments including his duet with Ponyboy in “Stay Gold,” a truly uplifting number. The second act is also a bit choppy with one major dilemma involving Ponyboy and Johnny Cade being resolved a bit too easily. However, the successes here far outweigh these complaints.

With music and lyrics by Jamestown Revival (Jonathan Clay & Zach Chance) and Justin Levine as music supervisor (orchestration & arrangements), these are fun, energetic, moving, joyful songs with lyrics that deftly advance the plot. I don’t know if Broadway songs still break into the Top 40, but several of these deserve to.

Kudos must also be given to Brian MacDevitt’s energetic lighting, the imaginative projections by Hana S. Kim, and the astonishing sounds Cody Spencer fills the theater with.

Despite the almost 2hr 30min running time, this show never lags.

THE OUTSIDERS by Adam Rapp with Justin Levine (book), Jamestown Revival & Justin Levine (music & lyrics), Directed by Danya Taymor

With: Brent Comer (Darrel Curtis), Brody Grant (Ponyboy Curtis), Dan Berry (Paul Holden), Daryl Tofa (Two-Bit Mathews), Emma Pittman (Cherry Valance), Jason Schmidt (Sodapop Curtis), Joshua Boone (Dallas Winston), Kevin William Paul (Bob Sheldon), Sky Lakota-Lynch (Johnny Cade), and Sarahgrace Mariani (Marcia).

Creative Team: , AMP (sets), Sarafina Bush (costumes), Brian MacDevitt (lighting), Hana S. Kim (projections), Jeremy Chernick and Lillis Meeh (special effects), Rick Kuperman & Jeff Kuperman (choreography), and Cody Spencer (sound design).

The Outsiders: A New Musical is playing at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre (242 West 45th Street). Run time is 2hrs 30mins. Performances are Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays at 7:00pm, Wednesdays and Saturdays at 8:00pm, with matinees at 3:00pm on Sundays and at 2:00pm on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Tickets are available here.