Leave it to Disney to wave a wand and turn a flop of a movie into a hit of Broadway musical called Newsies. It’s true that by all critical accounts the movie was a bomb when it opened in 1992 and the film lost a lot of money for Disney. In all fairness to the show, it did win over a cult-like following. So what caused the story of the Newsboy Strike of 1899 on film to suddenly gain accolades on stage when it opened in 2012?
For starters, seven new songs were added to the live production, as well as a serious romance. Love is definitely a game-changer when it involves a rebellious young man and budding female newspaper reporter. Also a new character was added, and another character taken out.
The show is set in New York City at the turn of the 19th Century, as Jack Kelly, a newsboy, leads a down-and-out group of teenaged “newsies,” boys who buy bundles of papers from the publishers and then sell them to the public, to stand up for their rights. It’s not an easy thing to do considering the boys are up against two newspaper giants, Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst. The publishing tycoons want to charge the boys more the papers that they hawk every day. To do so would be a real hardship for the boys and Jack Kelly won’t stand for it. What is so interesting about the storyline is that it is actually based on the true Newsboys Strike of 1899 in New York City.
When the show opened on Broadway, it was scheduled for a minimum run. However, it broke seven Nederlander Theatre house records and became the highest-grossing show from the 2011-12 Broadway season. It received 23 theater nominations including eight Tony Award nods, and it won a Tony, a Drama Desk, and an Outer Critics Circle Award for Score and Choreography.
The Palace Theater in Waterbury just wrapped up its limited engagement of the musical. However, this national tour will be making the rounds down the East Coast to Philadelphia and Baltimore and will surely be back at other area theaters in no time.
The Waterbury production featured Dan DeLuca as Jack Kelly, Steve Blanchard as Joseph Pulitzer, Stephanie Styles as Katherine, and Jacob Kemp as Davey. The ensemble is made up almost entirely of able young men who are as acrobatic as they are terrific dancers. Expect backbends, cartwheels, and handstands. There was enough energy in this cast to light up Connecticut.
Because this is a Disney production, it is solid family fare. In like fashion, the Palace Theater was filled with moms and dads and children all eager to cheer on the hard working and resourceful young men. Anyone traveling for the holidays should check out the tour dates for this national tour of Newsies, beause it is a good show for the whole family.
While there is so much good about the show, it is a typical, almost formulaic, old fashioned musical. The set is of the Erector Set type that one has seen many times over since its arrival with Rent. There are some terrific special effects that definitely add interest to the background.
For more information check out the tour site: ticketnetwork.com/
Joanne Greco Rochman is an active member in The American Theatre Critics Association. She welcomes comments. Contact: [email protected]