It was 1992. I was nearing thirteen and still bouncing back and forth between childhood and teendom. Even then, Disney was making that transition a little easier. MMC and Kids Incorporated were all the rage, and Disney Channel must be where I first saw the advertisements for a new movie, Newsies. I had always loved a movie musical – my life basically was one as I constantly broke out into song and dance. And, what could be better than a bunch of kids who seemed close to my age, dancing in the streets and standing up to injustice? I was guaranteed to like this one.
In those days, if we wanted to know when movies were showing, we read the times in the newspaper. I saw it – an ad for a special sneak peek showing of Newsies (made even better by the fact that it would be a double feature with the recently released Beauty and the Beast.) I knew I had to go. My mom and I bought our tickets, and as I walked through the lobby, I grabbed the special Newsies Banner, a promotional paper with biographies of the cast and stories about the making of the movie.
I read that paper until the movie began (and after a couple more times). I loved the movie. I saw it again in the theater. I sang the songs and learned the choreography. Kenny Ortega became my hero. I bought the soundtrack on cassette tape. I recorded the movie on VHS when it aired on the Disney Channel. When all the tapes wore out, I got the soundtrack on CD and later the DVD of the movie.
I should take a moment to say that I am not usually a fanatic. The only other thing I gave this much attention to was Strawberry Shortcake at age 4. Eventually, my affinity for both turned subtle. Yet, as many friends can attest, I practically forced them to watch Newsies the moment I found out they had not seen it, and I often said something to the affect of, “This should really be on Broadway.”
I was not the only one.
Twenty years after the movie was released, Newsies opened on Broadway. I seriously felt 13 again as I purchased presale tickets – a birthday present to myself.
Even on the sidewalk outside the doors of the Nederlander Theater I could feel the energy. And when my friend and I sat in our seats the energy seemed to have increased exponentially. I am convinced the audience was the “happiest on earth” to borrow a phrase from the Disney company. The opening moments were more like an invitation for the audience, the lights and smiles were lighting up our faces as much as they were the cast. And for 2 more hours or so, all our preteen dreams came true.
At the stage door, one of the security staff asked me what I thought. “Did you like it as much as the movie?” In answering, I realized the stage musical would never replace the movie, but I could love them both. I’m so thankful to Harvey Fierstein and Alan Menken and Jack Feldman for transforming this story after all these years. Out of gratitude I won’t pick the show apart and tell you the very few things that I did not like. Instead, I will tell you I love that it was not over-produced with too complicated a set or overly done costumes. The story, the characters, the music, and the choreography got all the focus, just as it should be. Speaking of choreography, it was enthralling. I could barely blink for fear I would miss something! It helps that these guys are incredibly athletes!
Again, I’m not the only one that felt this way. This talented cast and great show received 8 Tony Award nominations, including one for Best Musical. Tomorrow night, even more of “The World Will Know” (I can’t help the puns) when the Tony Awards air on CBS.
The show’s run has officially been extended, so many more will have the opportunity to attend in the coming months. I suggest you “Seize the Day” and plan your trip soon.
It is worth mentioning that Newsies has made incredible use of social media as a story about the power of the press should. There is no shortage of outlets for you to explore. Here are just a few:
Carry the Banner!