Newsies the Musical Review: From Film to Stage | Teen Ink

Newsies the Musical Review: From Film to Stage

May 11, 2015
By Anonymous

I came across the Disney musical film, Newsies, when I was around 9 years old, and it instantly became a favorite of mine. The movie was released in 1992 starring a young Christian Bale and was directed and choreographed by Kenny Ortega (IMDb). The story, based on the 1899 newsboy strike, follows a group of young New York newsboys (Newsies) who strike against their powerful bosses who have upped the price of a newspaper. This movie was my childhood. The dancing and the music was energizing and mesmerizing as I watched the movie over and over again with my sister, attempting to learn the chorography and the lyrics. So, when I had heard that Newsies had hit the musical theater stage, I was eager to see 19th century New York City dance live before my eyes.

In 2012, Newsies hit Broadway and began its national tour in 2014. In early 2015, the Newsies arrived at the Pantages in Los Angeles. On April 18, 2015, the last weekend of the musical production in LA, I was able to fulfill my wish of seeing Newsies on stage. My expectations were high as I can practically recite the film by heart. I hadn’t previously seen any musicals by the director Jeff Calhoun, but his list of credentials seemed highly respectable. I entered the theater with the soundtrack already stuck in my head and was thoroughly delighted when the stage banner spelled Newsies in large block letters- I could hardly contain my excitement.

The musical had its original line up of characters as seen in the original film- the protagonist, Jack Kelley, and his band of newsboys such as Crutchy, Davey, Les, etc. The cast had full credentials with stars like Dan DeLuca as Jack Kelley and Steve Blanchard as newspaper head honcho, Joseph Pulitzer. All cast members were incredibly talented both dance-wise and acting-wise. In terms of plot, several key factors were changed for the musical. Some made it better, however, some changes I felt hindered certain joys of the original musical film. In the film, protagonist Jack Kelley is the leader of the Newsies. The Newsies sell newspapers in New York City for Joseph Pulitzer, and all have no parents to care for them. Jack and the Newsies are introduced to two very different boys, Davey and Les Jacobs who become the brains of the Newsies strike against the monopoly on newspaper prices. An unlikely friendship is created between Jack and Davey. The two work together to rally all the Newsies in New York to form a union. Along the way Jack Kelley falls for the sister of Davey and Les, Sarah. In the movie this romance is minor and playful. Throughout the film, Jack is seeking a better life, away from the hustle and bustle of New York. The Newsies face the harassment of the Scabs and the threat of the police, but eventually achieve their goal of lower prices for newspapers with the help of journalist Bryan Denton as the Newsies no longer sell the headline, but rather are the headline. The movie is impeccably choreographed and has the soundtrack to match. Songs like “Carrying the Banner”, “King of New York”, “Santa Fe”, and “Seize the Day” are so catchy and exciting they can get stuck in your head for days.

Similarly, the musical had top-notch chorography and music, however major plot lines were changed. For example, Davey Jacobs was a much weaker character. He was not cautious and methodical but rather feeble and fearful. Also, his sister Sarah (as a love interest for Jack) was completely erased from the stage production and was replaced with a new love interest, cunning young journalist, and ironically the daughter of Joseph Pulitzer, Katherine Plumber. In addition, the role of Les Jacobs, Davey’s much younger brother, was more spunky, loud, and humorous rather than his original quiet yet enthusiastic spirit.

I enjoyed the choreography immensely. This was hands-down one of my favorite aspects of the musical. There is a certain advantage to seeing choreography live rather than on a T.V. screen, and I was impressed by the amount of talent the cast had for dance. I also thoroughly enjoyed the musical’s score. The music was kept very true to the movie (with some lengthening and a few changes here and there), which was very helpful for my sing-a-long pleasure (my favorites being “King of New York” and “Carrying the Banner”). The vocal and musical quality of the cast was top of the line, and each actor had a wonderful stage presence. I also enjoyed Les’s much more loud and humorous characteristics as I felt he added a cute youthfulness.

My extensive knowledge and love of the original featured film kept me somewhat critical throughout the course of the musical. I was disappointed in Davey’s change of character. In the movie he was calm and collected. He was dependable, loyal, and strong. In the musical he was portrayed as weak and fearful. I felt this change took away from his dynamic role in the film. I was also somewhat displeased with the added character of Katherine. Normally new characters would add excitement and dynamic, however her ironic relationship to Joseph Pulitzer seemed too cliché for me- protagonist has romance with daughter of antagonist- what’s new? The acting was great, the music and performance was delightful, but I would say the plot was too far changed for my liking.

For musical junkies, I would definitely recommend Newsies. For the Newsies film enthusiasts, I would say, keep an open mind, and be prepared for major changes, but don’t be discouraged! The music and dancing is just as wonderful as in the movie- it won a Tony award for score and choreography. Even though I am still skeptical of the big changes, I would encourage everyone, of all ages, to see this award-winning musical!

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