Newsies on Broadway

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Cast of the 1992 filme "Newsies" How many of you remember this film? This is a production shot for the film Newsies. It was released in 1992 by Disney and directed by Kenny Ortega. The musical, which starred Christian Bale (he is the one with the red bandanna leaning against the post) and told the story of when the newsboys in New York City went on strike in 1899, refusing to sell newspapers for The New York World and The New York Morning Journal.  The story is a classic underdog achievement story, that just so happens to be based on actual events. However, when Disney created and released this film, it was not exactly well received. In fact, the film was a flop. The movie ended up receiving Razzie awards, which aren’t exactly awards that a film wants to earn. It earned Worst Original Song for the song “High Times, Hard Times” and was nominated for Worst Picture, Worst Director, Worst Supporting Actor, and Worst Supporting Actress.

However, with such an upbeat story of the young overcoming hardships and rather upbeat song selections, it did gain a cult following.  People, like myself, love Newsies and still watch the movie religiously. There is something exciting about the idea of the poor and working class so greatly influencing the ruling authorities, especially now when people are so frustrated with the government in the country. For someone, like me, there is also something incredibly fun about watching guys who are willing to sing and dance, and not just guys, but teenage guys. (Christian Bale was only 17 when he starred in the film). Taking that all into account, many people still love Newsies and still enjoy watching the film and the songs in it.

That particular song is a reprise of one that is sung earlier. I was so in love with the movie, the song, and the dancing, that I actually attempted to teach myself the dance in that film (and got about half way through it). I would often discuss the film with my theatre friends and we each even took character names on as our own. (I was Crutchie). I have often shown this film to many many people. I would walk around singing the songs. I was in love with this story.

One thing we often spoke of, was how this film was made for Broadway. The film and story just lends itself to being a Broadway show. The music is catchy and exciting. The story is engaging and family friendly. Plus, the music lends itself to having some awesome choreography. Not to mention, that if any company could pull it off, Disney could. Disney Theatricals is known for having money to put on amazing shows. Beauty and the Beast, Lion King, Aida, Mary Poppins, Tarzan, and Little Mermaid are all Disney Broadway productions and all are incredible. If anyone could pull off Newsies, they could.

Little did I know what musical was being written and soon performed at the Paper Mill Playhouse.

I found out the good news in November, on thanksgiving. I was with my boyfriend and watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving day parade when I saw the following performance.

Firstly, King of New York has always been one of my favorite songs in the film. Secondly, while I loved that in the film, the song had hints of tap dance in it, I always have felt that the song would be an incredible tap dance piece. Suddenly there I was watching my favorite song as a Broadway tap dance piece.

The show was written with new songs by Alan Menken. The book was done by Harvey Feirstein. It is being performed at the Nederlander Theatre (just off Times Square) for a limited run (March through August).

I had to get tickets.

Luckily, I was able to get second row tickets for the musical and was able to see the performance this past Saturday (April 14) with a close friend of mine.

Overall, the show was utterly incredible. It was fun. It was exciting. It got the audience to cheer and want to be a part of the story. It had me excited about all the good moments of the strike and really saddened by the some of the harsher moments.

Firstly, the singing and acting was top notch. It was some of the most athletic dancing I had ever seen in my life. The cast was spot on in all their dance steps and when they needed to be doing the exact same thing at the exact same moment, they were. The acting, especially from the younger actors, was amazing. What made the younger actors so wonderful was that they obviously were performing with their entire heart and soul. Twelve of the cast members were making their Broadway debut and you could see it. You could see in their eyes that they were still utterly excited to be on Broadway in such a great show.

(NOTE – I will mention spoilers for anyone who has not seen the musical and/or the movie.)

Musicly, there were some differences. They changed a few lyrics to help make the music flow better. They changed a few of the orchestrations to make it sound better for the stage. A few songs were removed (High Times, Hard Times and My Lovey Dovey Baby) and a few were added (That’s Rich, Watch What Happens, The Bottom Line, Brooklyn’s Here, Something to Believe In). My favorite musical addition is actually in some of the songs that already existed. They added a Santa Fe duet between Jack Kelly and Crutchie at the show’s beginning, which is utterly beautiful. They also added a really nice moment to the song Once and For All that I have been singing since I came home from the show.

There are quite a few story changes. Jack Kelly is no longer the ‘cowboy’ that he is in the film. This time he is an artist, which works really well. My biggest gripes among the changes are in the ending. First, let me say that the ending in the musical works very well. It fits the story that they are presenting and has a really strong effect in it, that I like. However, I will freely admit that I am a bit more biased to the film’s ending. Now, I am not saying that in one they win the strike and in the other they lose. In the film, they plan the rally and it gets raided. Jack Kelly gets arrested and brought before Pulitzer. He turns into a scab and when the Delancy brothers go after one of his friends, he realizes his mistake and helps them print their own personal newspaper.

In the musical, he is goes to Pulitzer to invite him to the rally (a move that I really liked) and Pulitzer locks him up with an offer to turn on his friends at the rally for some really good money. And he does. However, it isn’t until he talks to the reporter about his actions that he realizes what really needs to be done to help the newsies and that they can actually succeed. Then they go and print their own personal newspaper.

Like I said before, the new ending works well. However, as Crutchie had always been my favorite character, I loved the interactions between Jack and Crutchie at the refuge and felt that musically it was an excellent opportunity for a duet or a private moment for the two characters. Instead, we never saw the inside of the refuge. This sort of bugged me.

The set and costumes were cool! The costumes for the newsies were really varied and fitting of the time period. Since I was in the second row, it was easy for me to see how much work they put into the costuming and making sure the outfits that the newsboys wore were properly aged and dirty. The set consisted of three towers, each three stories tall and a few smaller towers that could be wheeled on and off the stage. The towers would move and spin. They could connect and had gates between them so that actors could easily cross from one to another. The actors would dance in the towers and run through them to create various locations in the show. It was unique and worked incredibly well.

Overall, I was still highly impressed and I greatly enjoyed the show. If I had the money, I would definitely go again. Sadly, money is something I do not have. But I will gladly watch all the youtube videos of the show and happily listen to the soundtrack when it comes out. It was excellent and something I highly suggest everyone see.

Awesome job cast and crew of Newsies: The Musical.

Les Mis Review

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I have been waiting to see the musical Les Miserables for almost six years now. So far, I have had tickets to see the show twice before now and twice before now something has come up and kept me from seeing the production. I almost wondered if I was doomed to never see the show. I had to live with just the original broadway soundtrack and the 25th anniversary concert. Don’t get me wrong. For the most part, both are amazing (except the fact that in the concert they decided it would be a good idea to have Marius played by one of the Jonas Brothers) and I happily relisten to the soundtrack and rewatch the concert whenever it comes online. They are very very good.

However, to me, there is always something very different between listening to the music and actually seeing the show.

A good friend of mine had found that it was touring the country again and she got balcony tickets for a group of us for really good prices. Now, while I prefer closer, I will never dis the balcony. I have seen some great stuff from the balcony?

The show started with Jean Valjean in prison, which I knew. However, they had made a slight change. Instead of him being in a prison camp type thing where he is breaking rocks all day, they had him in the galley of a war ship for France. Personally, I think this was a really good change. It makes sense. Many ships if that time for various navys were filled with individuals who had been press ganged into serving. Press ganging was pretty damn close to actually being a prisoner, so it made sense. Not to mention, it was visually appealing.

I was impressed and amused by how grity the director chose to make the show. It is a dark show. It is about a dark time in French history. The director worked with that. In varous scenes prostitutes abound on stage (this was no surprise to me as one song is named “Lovely Ladies”). What felt so grity and amusing about the show was how the horny men would pelvic thrust or grab at their groins. In one scene, a couple goes upstairs and actually begins to hump each other. Of course, as it is theatre, they are fully clothed (and quite possibly positioned so that they never actually touch each other) but it was amusing to watch the scene, especially when the couple decided to change positions mid song.

Emotionally, the show is a major rollar coaster. I knew this from listening to the soundtrack. I just had not realized just how much if a ride you would go on. Characters die left and right in the show, which is expected. It is the beginning of the French revolution. Each one gets harder and harder to watch. The worst one is the death of a young boy named Gavroche. He is the second death of the people at the barricades. He goes out to get more ammo and is shot. You hear him singing about how he’ll never give up. Your heart aches for the dying boy. But you feel this massive wrench when the boy never finishes his song due to the second gun shot.

The show reaches an emotional climax during the prayer of Jean Valjean at the barricades when he sings “Bring Him Home.” The song is very pretty to listen to and had always been one of the prettier songs in the show, but when combined with the rest of the script and the acting and everything else, it came close to producing tears. It received the longest mid show applause, and well deserved it was.

Overall, the show is beautiful and well written. When the music is combined with the sets, costumes, and actin, then the show becomes a work of art. Emotionally driven and completely beautiful, it was well worth the 6 year wait from when I first had tickets to when I actually got to see the show.