Newsies the Musical: Broadway Show Review

One year many (many) moons ago, my sister received a new (VHS) Disney movie from Santa. Far from a traditional animated film, this one was a musical starring Bill Pullman and a young Christian Bale. The movie was called Newsies and the story told the tale of the New York City newsboy strike of 1899. Needless to say, we loved this movie as kids. The songs were catchy, the dancing flashy and let’s face it: 12 year old me had no trouble gazing at Christian Bale as he bounced all over the city.

Fast forward a mere *gulp* 20 years to January, 2012. I was innocently opening my
mail one day and found myself face-to-face with THIS:

NEWSIES! THE MUSICAL!! Coming to Broadway for a brief 12 week run!

It was time to empty the piggy bank, check the couch cushions for spare change and tap into Lily’s college fund. (I’m only slightly exaggerating.) I bought our tickets and we looked forward to seeing the show in March.

Newsies the Musical is playing at the Nederlander Theatre which is located on 41st Street between 7th and 8th Ave in New York City. A fairly small venue by Broadway standards, you would be hard-pressed to find a bad seat in the joint. We sat about ten rows from the stage, off to the right. Our view was incredible and my only gripe was the man in front of me whose helmet-shaped hair provided a perfect block from front center stage. He was like Frankie Avalon‘s hair twin. Anyway.

Newsies has a run time of about 2.5 hours with a 15 minute intermission in the middle.

There were some obvious deviations from the ’92 film version. Here are a few that I picked up on:

Some new tunes: The movie version lacks enough songs to be a full-on stage musical so some new ones were added. The soundtrack now includes titles like “Watch What Happens,” “That’s Rich,” “I Never Planned on You” and “Brooklyn’s Here.”

Some new lyrics to the original songs: You can expect many of your old Newsies favorites, but most (if not all) of the songs have a few different lines here and there.

*Spoiler Alert* New love interest for Jack: The male reporter (played by Bill Pullman in the movie) has been replaced by a girl, Katherine. Katherine just so happens to be *shocker!* Joseph Pulitzer’s daughter. Conflict much?

*Sorta Spoiler Alert* Different ending: The end of the stage version does conclude a bit differently than the movie with Jack being offered a job as a political cartoon artist for the paper. Whether he takes it or not was left up in the air, but one thing was certain: he did get the girl.

What I loved: it would be wrong to say “everything,” right? Let me narrow it down to some favorites:

The Talented Cast: Triple threats as far as you could see… These boys (and the couple girls) were extraordinary. They sang, they danced, they acted. And they did it all VERY well.

The Energy: The excitement radiating out of the audience was obvious from the instant the curtain rose. There were several songs that left the crowd clapping, whistling and cheering long after the last note was sung. The cast fed off of this energy and each performance topped the last.

The Dance Numbers: Much like the movie, Newsies the Musical offered a ton of dancing. The choreography and set design were impressive and the show was incredibly action-packed. My very favorite dance number was the tap sequence in King of New York- powerful and fun!

What could be improved: Not much, in my very humble opinion.

I missed the interaction that Jack had in the movie with David’s family (eliminated from the stage version) but I thought the creation of Katherine’s character made up for that loss.

I always enjoyed the part of the movie when Jack pays a visit to Brooklyn to talk to Spot Conlon, head Newsie in that part of the woods. I am sure this part was cut out due to time constraints and Spot does make an appearance in the stage version, just not the same.

Who Is This Show Appropriate For? Any age, young and old. We took Lily and this was her first Broadway show. She is 3.5 years old but freakishly well-behaved (no, I’m really not just saying that- the kid is an anomaly and I should quit while I’m ahead). I would say on average this show would be best suited for kids maybe five and up who can sit quietly for about an hour or so at a time.

Other random advice for seeing this one on Broadway:

Getting there: We took the train into NY Penn Station and it was an easy walk to the theater (about 7 blocks- took about ten minutes or so). Cabs are readily available outside the train station if walking is not an option. I’m sure there are parking garages very close by if you are driving. Parking in NYC comes at a premium – expect to pay $30-$50 for an evening of parking.

Eating in the city? You have limitless choices covering all price ranges and taste preferences. The Nederlander Theatre is only a couple of blocks off of Times Square.

How long will this show be in NYC? Originally picked up for a short (just 12 week) run, Newsies has already been extended into August, 2012. If the show continues to be successful with audiences it could very well earn an open-ended spot in the Broadway lineup.

Final Thoughts: I knew that chances were good that I would enjoy this show.  I also worried that if the stage version veered too far away from the film version I might be disappointed.  What I ended up watching was an exciting “spruced up” adaptation of a childhood favorite.  I thought that just about all of the changes worked – and worked well.  This show is definitely not just for fans of the movie – Bob (who has never seen the movie) thought the show was amazing.  Lily came out of that theater BURSTING with Newsie excitement.  She prattled about the show (“they danced on newspapers!”, “they danced on the tables!”) the entire train ride home.  If you’re looking for wholesome, family entertainment that appeals to just about any theater-goer, Newsies has a superior shot at filling the bill.

This review is in no way sponsored by any wallet other than my own.  I was under no obligation to write a review of this show.  All opinions and experiences and memories of Christian Bale are 100% my own and should never be substituted for your own. 

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