Few could have anticipated that a 1992 film flop would later inspire a hit Broadway show, energizing the Nederlander Theatre for more than two years. Newsies, once believed to collect dust in home entertainment cabinets, became a huge cult classic and compelled Disney to translate the musical into a Broadway spectacular. Now, sadly, the “King of New York” will say goodbye to the Great White Way, as the Broadway production of Newsies closes on August 24.
But before we say farewell to Jack, Crutchie, Katherine, Davey, and Mr. Pulitzer, let’s take a step back into memory lane and recall the best of Newsies on Broadway.
Like many theatre fans interested in seeing how Disney Theatrical would make a Broadway show out of this box office bomb, I was more than eager to catch the show. I attended a July 2012 performance of Newsies that cemented its place as perhaps the most dazzling show I had ever seen on stage. The show thrilled every ounce of me, as I detailed in my review of the show. Sure, The Lion King possesses those impressive costumes and Beauty and the Beast honed a more moving storyline. But Newsies was different in all the right ways.
Its Tony-winning choreography and score by the always amazing Alan Menken and Jack Feldman, matched by the dynamite performances, crafty sets, and generally agreeable songs, elated this Broadway fan. Newsies revved up the audience I was a part of, triggering mass applause and adoration. I wear my Newsies cap, akin to the ones the newsboys adorn, with pride. Undeniably I was not alone in having those sentiments. The production, which began at New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse and later became a “limited engagement” on Broadway, took the community by storm. Its strong ticket sales and wide audience appeal caught Disney Theatrical Productions by surprise. It almost immediately repealed the “limited” aspect. Newsies has since thrived on Broadway, helping many young performers start their Broadway careers and further the notoriety of countless talented dancers/actors, including several from So You Think you Can Dance fame.
Newsies‘ popularity extended to various areas of the entertainment world, including multiple performances on morning shows and televised parades alike. Just watch this video from the 2012 Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade to see how the cast of Newsies swept the streets of Main Street, USA.
But why is Newsies ending? Its successes can be identified in various arenas. The production will begin a tour of North America this fall. It has earned more than $100 million. Several cast members, including Jeremy Jordan, its original lead, has experienced prominence thanks to Newsies. Disney did not indicate in its press release why Newsies, which will have played more than 1,000 times by the end of its run, will close. However, perhaps lower sales in recent months and increased competition in the theatre market may have played a role.
Thankfully, Newsies placed Disney on the Broadway map once again after both Tarzan and The Little Mermaid disappointed in the years prior. Other than The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast, Disney’s only additional Broadway success stories has been Aida, which experienced a four-year Broadway run, and Mary Poppins, which closed in 2013 after around seven years of playing in New York. Yet neither Aida nor Poppins became a smash sensation like Newsies during its first year. Newsies‘ popular place within Disney Theatrical Productions has contributed, to some extent, to the success of Aladdin. Aladdin will likely persevere in the coming years if all elements work in sync, but Broadway is a finicky environment. Some shows collapse after immense debuts. Others remain for a long time, as Lion King has proven.
Newsies‘ cast and its delivery of the music has stayed strong since the start. Nearly every song warrants humming, toe-tapping, and an urge to just start dancing in the streets. Every chance I can, I play the “Santa Fe” ballad on the piano or drive with “Seize The Day” emerging with energy from my car’s speakers. Disney On Broadway’s YouTube channel’s pretty consistent release of new videos featuring Newsies cast members, whether in the form of music videos or conversations, has allowed the fan community to stay engaged. This video below demonstrates Newsies‘ capacity to elicit excitement.
Newsies‘ final weeks on Broadway sees the return of original cast member wonderful Tommy Bracco as Spot, as well as the show reaching its 1,000th performance milestone. Of course it is disappointing to watch Newsies depart the Nederlander, but the silver lining must be that the production will literally “move on” the road through this North America tour.
What will you most miss about Newsies if you have seen the show? If not, will you catch it during its upcoming tour? Share your thoughts!
This is Brett Nachman, signing off. Follow me on Twitter for alerts of new editions of Disney In Depth, Thursdays on Geeks of Doom.