Editor: Please welcome Sean Gilley who was lucky enough to attend a preview performance of Newsies The Musical and nice enough to write about it for The Disney Blog.
My son and I were lucky enough to attend the Newsies, the Musical, preview performance on the evening of March 18. Since we attended a preview performance, things can still be rearranged, changed or completely removed from the show before its official opening, so what we saw is not necessarily what will be onstage in a week. Since Newsies had a run at the Papermill Playhouse in New Jersey before transferring to NYC, I suspect the show is pretty much stable, but I could be wrong.
Enough disclaimers. Newsies, the Musical, is exuberant, very well performed, and fun. The audience was primed and ready to be enthralled by the production, and, in general I think they were.
The story was changed a bit from the film version. The most glaring change is that the male reporter, played in the film by Bill Pullman, has been changed to a female reporter, and she also replaces the film character Sarah Jacobs. The song “Santa Fe” is given a larger presence in the show, and other songs have been added while both “My Lovey Dovey Baby” and “High Times, Hard Times” were left out of the show or replaced with something else.
There is one change I want to mention. I guess perhaps it can be considered a spoiler, but if so, it’s a very, very, small spoiler. I want to mention it because the change was a disappointment to me, and had I known about it in advance, I would have enjoyed the end of the show more.
At the end of the film, there is a reprise of the song “The World Will Know” as the newsies wait to see if the other working children in the city will join their strike. And suddenly, the children do appear, singing the line “When you’ve got a million voices singing, who can hear a lousy whistle blow?”. This was always the most emotional moment in the film for me, and it doesn’t exist in the stage musical. There are good reasons why. The cast is already established, and most of them are already onstage. Now a bunch of new people appear. Where do you get the extra actors? I can’t think of any way to do it except to have almost a second cast’s worth of people who haven’t been seen, then bring them on for the finale. Since keeping a bunch of actors on payroll for a five minute scene isn’t really feasible, they rewrote the ending so the extra people weren’t needed.
These newsies dance. Boy, do they dance. And they dance well. And they dance a lot. I’m not a dancer, and dance routines usually don’t do much for me one way or the other, but the choreography by Christopher Gattelli is exciting and fun and always interesting.
If I have anything bad to say about this show other than my disappointment in the ending, it would be that maybe some of the new songs aren’t as strong as the originals. In particular, I think that Pulitzer has some of the weaker songs. But perhaps that’s nitpicking, especially considering I’ve had years to learn and know the originals, and one hearing for the new songs.
The crowd for this performance were obviously already fans of the film. There are times when die hard fans can be annoying, but not this night. It just made the whole event that much more fun. From the moment they started cheering when the overture started, to the moment the lights came on after the performance, you could tell many of these were people who cared about the show, people who loved the movie, and wanted this stage musical to succeed.
And succeed it has, at least so far. Newsies has already out performed Rent in its opening week, and Newsies has already had its run extended by two months. From what I’m hearing, tickets are moving quickly, so it’s probably a good idea to get tickets soon if you’re planning to go. Most people seem to think that Newsies will be changed to an open ended run, but that’s not guaranteed.
According to people at the theater, the cast album (already recorded) will be printed and available around the end of April. If you go between now and then, you can pre-order it (as I did) and get a free poster to go along with the CD. One last word of advice. If you want autographs, get out to the front of the theater quickly. We stayed and purchased a couple of items, and by the time we made it out front, most of the cast had gone. And I don’t know for how long they’ll keep doing autographs, but they were set up just for that on Sunday.
Last words: This is a great little show. You won’t see awe-inspiring sets or people dancing at the top of the proscenium or many other effects you can see at other shows on Broadway. What you will see is an enthusiastic cast performing a wonderful show and doing a fantastic job. I highly recommend it.