This weekend I got the distinct pleasure of going to see Newsies, the Musical. I grew up watching the movie Newsies from Disney and loved every minute of it. I loved it so much that I could sing along with every song and even knew the whole opening dialogue by heart. When I first heard about them making a musical of Newsies I was ecstatic and knew that if I got the opportunity to see it I would have to. This weekend that opportunity came and it was not a disappointment. Obviously they had to change a few things for the stage production, but the music is really what makes the story so great and the music does not disappoint. They added a few songs to fill out the roster and some of the lyrics got changed around a bit, which to hardcore fans is a bit confusing, but it is still such a fun ride. So in honor of my excitement here are my 5 favorite things from Newsies, the Musical.
One of the big changes that they made to the story is that the reporter who covers the newsies strike is a female reporter, Katherine Plumber. She is trying to go from covering the fluff of entertainment stories to breaking out into hardcore news. This also serves as the stories main love interest, as opposed to the movie where it is Dave’s sister. There is a bit of an interesting twist of the newsboys trying to get out from under the heel of the owners of paper and a female reporter trying to prove that she can do more than just the entertainment beat. It is nice to see her hold her own in a basically all male cast, but it also makes sense because this is supposed to be taking place in 1899 in New York City. In some ways it could be nice if she was not the love interest, but at the same time I love the connection her and Jack make through the story.
Les, Dave’s Younger Brother
The kid who played Les was brilliant. A lot of the comedic moments were definitely given to the cute little kid and he was so good at it. In the movie the little brother is quiet and fairly shy, but in the musical he is definitely an extrovert. I think one of my favorite moments is after Jack, Les, and Dave get kicked out of Pulitzer’s building Les is the one who makes the comment about Pulitzer begging to see him next time. In the movie this scene was played much more serious and Jack is the one who delivers the message with just an agreement from Les. There are some other great moments that just work really well to keep the story lighthearted and fun.
Use of Screens
The musical did an amazing job using the set and using screens to help the audience understand details that would require a closer look. One example is when Jack is sitting there drawing our lovely reporter Katherine and we see him actually looking like he is sketching on a piece of paper and to the side they show the idea of what he is sketching. It has the motion of the sketch being drawn out on the screen. It works brilliantly since there is no way to have the audience share in this moment. The screens are also used to show the New York skyline and buildings. The other place that I thought this worked well is when Katherine is writing her story and they use the screen to let us see what she is typing. Starting with the story that she throws out to the story that eventually gets published. It is a great way to engage the larger audience who cannot always have front row seats.
So this is such a minor part of the whole musical, but Spot was one of my favorite parts of the movie. This of course made me insanely curious how he would be treated in the stage production. Now due to limited space they do not show them going to Brooklyn, but they do show Brooklyn coming to Manhattan and it was good. Then we see Brooklyn at the Newsboy Rally and Spot makes a fairly impressive showing. He was honestly pretty hot and what was fabulous is that he did the muscle man pose. This elicited a response from one particular woman in the audience, which then caused the actor, as Spot, to say shhh. It was just a great little addition to the overall performance and just played well with Spot as the larger than life leader of the Brooklyn crew.
This leads me to one of the more interesting parts, which is that during the scenes that take place in the theatre owned by Medda Larkin they actually kind of call out the audience to act as the audience of the theatre. It is small things like saying how you doing this evening and wanting you to cheer. So it is small things, but it is kind of a fun thing to do when you are doing a stage production in a stage production. Instead of a fake audience you just utilize the audience that is already in the theatre as the audience. It just added an extra layer of fun to the whole experience.
Now as a fan of the movie I have no idea how this translates to someone who does not have that history, but it seems to be getting great reviews considering it started off Broadway and has just blown up from there. So I guess if you like musicals this will be an enjoyable experience. The stage production, choreography, and music all make for a great story and a good time. So one quick note is that the larger premise of the musical is the start of the child labor laws. In regards to those laws Les is played by a young boy and thus is only allowed to work so long. This means that there are always two potential actors playing the character. I would not doubt between rehearsals and sometimes two shows in a day you have to have them switch off to not meet the maximum. It was just a factoid I found amusing when looking at a show that is indirectly referencing the issue of child labor.