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Newsies is a relatively new (hit Broadway in March, 2012) Broadway Play by Disney based on the 1992 live-action Disney movie musical of the same name, which in turn was based on the historical Newsboys Strike of 1899. It is currently playing at the Nederlander Theatre on 42nd Street in the Broadway theatre district of Manhattan.
The play was everything I hoped it would be. Barbara and I really enjoyed it, and given the chance I would definitely see it again. If you visit (or live in New York) and get a chance to see it, I highly recommend the play to everyone, especially those who enjoyed the original movie, as it is every bit as good as the original (better even in many ways).
The story centers on fictional strike leader Jack Kelly, a newsie in his late teens who, along with his fellow Newsies, rebel against a price hike imposed on them by newspaper tycoons Joseph Pulitzer and William-Randolph Hearst (Random note: Barbara, Mike and I visited Hearst Castle, the Massive home of William-Randolph Hearst in 2006).
Jack is a budding artist who aspires to leave New York saying “You keep your small life in a big city, give me a big life, in a small town.” at the intro to the prologue song Santa Fe.
As the Newsboys get ready and started with their morning routes (Carrying the Banner), Pulitzer schemes with his staff on how to get more circulation in a time when headlines aren’t the greatest. They decide that if they raise the wholesale cost to the newsies from 50 cents per hundred papers, to 60 cents per hundred, newsies would have to sell 10 more papers in order to make the same amount of money (The Bottom Line).
While hiding from the warden of a local juvenile hall called “The Refuge,” in a Vaudville theatre with his new friends Davey and Les (Thats Rich), Jack meets a young female reporter named Katherine (I Never Planned on You) who grabs his attention.
After learning about the price hike, Jack and (reluctantly) Davey decide to organize the Newsies in a strike against “Mighty Bill and Joe” (The World Will Know). Katherine overhears about the strike and figures this story might be her chance at a big break to become a full reporter instead of just a Vaudville reviewer. She sets out to write about the plight of the Newsies (Watch What Happens).
When their first attempts at raising support from other groups of Newsies of New York fails, the rag-tag band of misfits feels dejected. It falls on Davey to bolster their spirits with an inspirational Dance number (Seize the Day). This particular number is the climax of act one, and includes some impressive acrobatics and choreography that uses the papers themselves.
At one point in the song, the newsies crumple up sheets of newspaper and throw them out into the audience. Being so close, Barbara and I were actually able to catch 2 sheets of the paper, and I was impressed in that they do actually appear to be pages from a Thursday, July 20, 1989 issue of The New York World.
Unfortunately in the chaos from the riot that was inspired by Seize the Day, Snider, the Warden of the Refuge captures and beats the crippled Newsie “Crutchy” and carts him off to the Refuge. Jack, who blames himself for Crutchy getting hurt, decides to run off and forget about the strike (Santa Fe (Reprise)). Meanwhile the rest of the Newsies (and Katherine) celebrate with a tap dancing number because they have become famous as Katherine’s article has made the front page of The New York Sun (King of New York).
At this point it is Jack who needs some inspiration in order to stay with the cause and continue to fight for the plight of the Newsies. (Watch What Happens (Reprise)). And upon getting the inspiration he needs, agrees to speak at a Rally to increase the membership in their Newsboys Union. He also decides to visit Pulitzer and issue the demands of the Newsies, as well as invite Pulitzer to speak at the Rally. While in Pulitzer’s office however, he is demoralized by the tycoon who heavily threatens to harm Jack, and more importantly Davey’s family, if Jack doesn’t agree to speak against the strike at the Rally (The Bottom Line (Reprise)). Even more demoralizing to Jack, Pulitzer reveals that Katherine is actually Katherine Pulitzer (his daughter), which leaves Jack feeling like he has been played as a sucker.
All the Newspaper Boys of New York (including the much Lauded Brooklyn led by Spot Conlon) assemble in the Vaudeville theatre for the Rally (Brooklyn’s Here) but Jack, who doesn’t want Davey and his family to be harmed, and is demoralized to find out that the woman he has fallen for is the daughter of his enemy, speaks for the dissolving of the Union and ending of the strike.
Katherine visits Jack on his rooftop home and convinces him that she does truly care for him (Something to Believe in), and pitches an idea of a way to actually win against her father. Her idea is to spread the strike further, not just among the Newsies, but all of the working kids of New York.
They decide to publish a paper of their own and use it to organize an even bigger Rally. They break into The World and publish their paper on an old cast aside printing press stored in the cellar, and the Newsies distribute The Newsies Banner to every working kid in New York (Once and For All).
With a visit from Governor Teddy Roosevelt, and all the bad publicity of the strike, Pulitzer finally discusses a “A compromise we can all live with” with Jack. He will split the difference on the price hike (bringing it down to 55 cents per hundred) but will also agree to buy back any papers the Newsies can’t sell. Roosevelt shuts down the Refuge and imprisons Warden Snider for his horrid running of the establishment after seeing an illustration by Jack on the conditions that were there, and Pulitzer offers Jack a job as a Political Cartoonist after seeing how influential the drawing was.
Jack decides to start a new dream and stay in New York with his friends and the woman he loves instead of pursuing his dream of moving to New Mexico (Finale).
See when I was a kid, the 1992 movie was one of my favorites. Somewhere (I’ll have to find them, they aren’t digital) I have some pictures of me dressed up as a Newsie at age 13 and handing out vintage newspapers at an event in Leesburg, VA.
I’ve been adamantly following the progress of the play leading up to getting to see it. I happily tweeted when the soundtrack came out.
And retweeted D23 when it won 2 Tony awards
I was especially excited when the run of the show was extended, and I started getting hope that I might actually be able to get to see it:
Saturday, the day had finally arrived.
I got a very pleasant surprise when I went to pick up my tickets from StubHub, which were supposed to be in Row J (10th row) but turned out to be Row C (3rd row), center of the Orchestra section, fabulous seats. I tweeted another song lyric while waiting in line to enter the theater.