From one huge Newsies fan to another, and as someone who practically injected Newsies into her bloodstream like a dangerous illegal street drug while it ran in New Jersey at the Paper Mill Playhouse, here are a few things I think you should know about Newsies: The Musical as it makes its inaugural journey to Broadway.
“There’s change coming, once and for all…” – Jack Kelly, Newsies: The Musical
First, and possibly the most important thing for every fan to understand before making their pilgrimage to the Great White Way - Newsies: The Musical is not simply Newsies the movie performed on a stage. The two entities are in fact very different, and you should go into the musical with a very open mind. You will probably love the musical as long as you treat it as its own entity. Never, ever forget how much you love the movie, or the amazing performances of the original movie cast, but please give the changes in the stage musical a chance before you express your distaste about how the lyrics have been altered, or how some of your favorite one-liners and characters are missing, or even how a stage actor has chosen to portray their role, which may very well be the complete opposite of how it was done in the movie. It took a second viewing in NJ for me to realize I needed to separate my love for the movie from how much I could and should love the stage musical – I want you to feel the way I felt on my second (third, fourth… and thirteenth) viewing… on your first.
“Since you left me, I’ve been undone…” – Patrick’s Mother, Newsies
An element which has clearly presented itself as a fan favorite moment from the film was clearly missing during Carrying the Banner when Paper Mill premiered this show back in September 2011. Our singing nuns arrive on cue, but… Patrick’s mother (not unlike Patrick) has mysteriously disappeared. Before you start plastering their faces on the sides of milk cartons, I would like to point out that to the fresh faces in the audience; this is not a mystery at all. If you will allow me to quote Davey - as he said to Jack upon confronting him about his scabbiness; to Patrick’s mother I say, “We don’t need you.” Patrick’s mother would probably be confusing and distracting when things have to hurry along at a much quicker pace than the film. Introducing a character only to disappear immediately with no resolution is not a great story telling device, so rightfully I believe her deletion is for the greater good. Patrick’s Mother… since you left us, we’ve been a wreck. Fans do love you, but thank God you’re axed. For your missing dose of harried mother, check out the behind the scenes video put together by the Paper Mill Newsies which was not released until the show wrapped in NJ. Thanks to Andrew Keenan-Bolger (whom I refer to as “Stage Crutchie”) who directed this masterpiece between the matinee and evening performances one day. I was there. I saw it all go down. If I recall correctly, there was some extra funny stuff shot but never released (Disney has to green light all his show related videos, I believe). Whether or not Patrick’s devoted mother will reappear in the Broadway evolution remains to be seen.
“Don’t just stand there letting those children sing, endlessly.” – Governor Roosevelt, Newsies: The Musical
It comes with great regret that I make this request to you, the die-hard fans. As difficult as it might be, please don’t try to sing along. As I mentioned, some of the lyrics are different. Some are in fact vastly different than what we all have grown up with. Every song has been changed; some more than others of course, so save yourself the potential embarrassment (and dirty looks from the people around you) and only sing along in your head.Good news is, we are going to be graced with an original Broadway cast recording, but until then just listen, and begin to love a whole new world of words you never knew (Eh, you like that Disney?). You will be surprised with some of the changes, and not always happy with them, but keep an open mind to a new imagining and you will leave wanting to know every new word to every old song (and new songs, because for the most part, those are pretty outstanding as well). That being said, part of me is still very much undecided as to the response to “Pulitzer and Hearst, they think we’re nothing, are we nothing?” Everything inside me wants to scream “No!” with my fist pumped proudly in the air (I go to a lot of Green Day concerts where this is encouraged). In my experience as an audience member for this show, I have heard some fans whisper it, some fans state it unabashedly… but never the emphatic shout we all must feel brewing inside. If the Broadway gods, or the stage Newsies want to weigh in, I’d love your guidance on that particular moment of potential audience interaction. Though that sort of boisterous reaction erupting out of nowhere for those unfamiliar with the movie might just “scare the bejeebers out of Weasel.” – Mush, Newsies: The Musical
"Speaking as one professional to another, I'd say you have a great future." - Medda, Newsies
You can read all about my issues with Medda's character in my Newsies in NJ review, but good news is - none of that matters! In an interview, Thomas Schumacher revealed that the Broadway production will feature a brand new Medda with a brand new song. With that, I hope it includes a brand new story line, because it needed some tweaking for sure. One major difference from both the film and the NJ version of the show is that Medda is now a black woman. How they will make this work for the time period, I do not know, but I am very interested to see how they play it, and if race will now be a component of the underdog fight that is the story of Newsies. It could go in a wonderfully poignant direction if they did it right, we just have to wait and see. It does however throw a wrench into the works as far as Medda's involvement with the Governor (assuming they pay any attention to historical accuracy), so as I said, hopefully a new plot surrounds her on Broadway.
“You guys gotta be ambastards…” - Jack Kelly, Newsies
You will feel some Disney magic in your veins at this show (Newsies: Your Anti-Drug). The moment you realize that a song from the movie is about to begin the hair on your arms will stand on end, your eyes may water nostalgically, and your lungs will want to release a volume shattering show of support. Please DO show some love for the movie songs. In my experience with this amazing cast, the energy in the audience will feed the performance, so when you hear those first notes to Carrying the Banner, King of New York, or any of your favorites, and your heart fills with so much love and excitement you just can’t contain yourself… don’t contain yourself. Let everyone in that theatre know how important this production is to you, how long we have all waited for this moment, and how it makes you feel. I know I do, and I know I have seen the smiles spread across the faces of the cast when they have to hold their positions an uncomfortable length of time because the audience is so in love they just have to make some noise. The writers, actors, musicians, and entire production staff and crew make beautiful sounds for us… let’s do the same for them.
The moments for this sort of support will be obvious, so as much as I say let loose those vocal praises, remember that this is a theatre and we’re supposed to have, like… etiquette or something, so be cool Honey Bunny when the moment passes. Remember that there will be lots of Newsies noobs (Newbsies?) in the audience, not just of the stage show, but of the movie as well. People of all ages from all over the world who may have never even heard of Newsies the movie will be in the audience, so keep spoilers to a minimum (especially with repeat viewings). They have no idea what is going to happen, so let them experience Newsies: The Musical for the first time without the bias of the super fans. If they ask you what you like better, the movie or the musical (and they will, because they asked me at every single show) tell them what you love about both. They’ll be compelled to pick up the movie, or come back to Broadway.