Video Clip from Newsies Courtesy of Disney
"This play is so...Disney..." my friend Steve Cabral turned and said to me as we attended opening night as the musical theatre season kicked off at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, CA.
And the truth is, it is very Disney. After all, they're the producers and the movie the play was from, albeit an initial flop, is now a Disney cult classic.
The play, and movie, is the energetic Newsies now playing until April 19 and continuing on a national tour.
And while Cabral was thinking of the feel of the play, I was thinking of the substance. I'm part journalist, old school journalist, you know, pre-blogger. I know the importance of names like Hearst and Pulitzer, and I was once a paper boy, up before dawn, getting papers ready for my route.
You see, as a paper boy, each month I was billed for the papers I delivered; the amount that it took to fulfill my route. I billed the people on my route directly. I paid for the papers, and kept the difference.
That's pretty much how it was for the "newsies" of turn of the century. Each morning, they would show up, pay .50 cents, and get 100 papers. Until Pulitzer and the others decided to raise it to .60 cents for the same amount. This meant they had to sell more to make the same and they didn't like it. So, they organized, and revolted, and with the help of a little newspaper coverage, got the most powerful publishers in the world to listen.
A tale of that Davey vs. Goliath warrants a musical, and Newsies is that musical. The movie was directed and choreographed by Kenny Ortega in 1992. 20 years later, the stage musical has music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Jack Feldman, and a book by Harvey Fierstein. The musical premiered at the Paper Mill Playhouse in 2011 and made its Broadway debut in 2012.
Our lead is Jack Kelly and 20-something newsie that ends up being the leader of the rag-tag group of ruffians. He's played by they handsome Dan DeLuca who brought the crowed to their feet with his singing, dancing and exuberant delivery of the reluctant hero. Stephanie Styles as Katherine Pulitzer adds a plucky energy, one that the audience can't help but love from her first number Watch What Happens to the rousing 11 o'clock number Once And For All.
But what resounded so strongly about Newsies at this time of changing media is just that: the play is about media changing, about papers having to make do and how people suffer when major shifts in media entities happen. In 2015 as newsrooms disappear and there's even a newspaper death watch website the play is a reminder that as the last century saw major changes, changes that crippled some and drove others completely out of publishing, this century has seen the same. In fact, newspapers in 2015 feel part of a bygone era; one of more responsible journalism, and a centralized important source for information.
Comic, lively, downright hysterical at times, Newsies is a great time for young and old alike. It's an evening of theatre for a date, for an anniversary, or for the kids. It's the raucousness of Angela Grovey's "Medda Larkin" breaking the third wall and playing with the audience or the eternal tingle of what happens when boy-meets-girl-boy-loses-girl-boy-gets-girl-in-the-end all set to music. It's big dance numbers, pull-all-the-stops Broadway and it succeeds in part because Disney has this down to a science; the science of entertaining. It's a great kickoff to musical theatre season in Los Angeles and a rousing night of theatre for the entire family.