The stage musical, “Disney’s Newsies” is another property which traveled from the silver screen to the Broadway stage. The movie, starring Christian Bale, was released in 1992. “Disney’s Newsies’, The Broadway Musical,” with music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Jack Feldman and book by Harvey Fierstein debuted in 2011.
This story is a bite of American history really not taught in high school. The morning newspapers in most big cities were sometimes delivered to subscribers’ homes; but the afternoon papers were hawked on the streets by youngsters. These children, most of whom were immigrants, orphans or homeless, usually between the ages of seven and 17, would buy papers from the middle man for 50 cents per hundred and sell them for one cent a paper, thus making a profit of 50 cents per day – not a bad salary for a youngster in those hard times in the latter half of the Nineteenth Century.
They were the crew which kept the circulation numbers of the newspapers around 360,000 per day during the Spanish American War, which began April 21, 1898. However, when the war’s end came just 10 weeks later, the circulation dropped considerably.
How to regain the circulation numbers becomes the task for well-known philanthropist, newspaper owner of The New York World, Joseph Pulitzer. This mogul had an ongoing feud with his great rival, William Randolph Hearst, the publisher of the New York Journal.
Pulitzer and Hearst decided to raise the fee for the papers to 60 cents per hundred, therefore, the boys would have to sell one-fifth more papers to make the same amount of daily salary. With the thousands of newsboys in the city, that would bring back up the circulation.
Thus, the beginning of the newsboys’ strike of 1899, lead by a young lad around 17 years of age named Louis Baletti. The boy got the other paper boys to agree to refuse to sell the World and Journal and called for a rally to show solidarity of the cause to convince the two publishers to go back to charging them 50 cents per 100 papers.
Approximately five thousand boys from Manhattan showed up for the rally; two thousand more came from Brooklyn and several hundred arrived from other areas of the city. The circulation of the papers dropped to 125,000. The strike lasted only two weeks. The unity of the boys won out over the two publishers, who agreed to return to their 50-cent price from the 60.
TMP brings this tale of successful unity to the stage with a cast of 36 talented members singing and dancing the story Baletti, aka, Jack Kelly, in the play.
Jon Douglas Rake once more makes the magic happen as the show’s director. Rake instills the enthusiasm within the cast to carry their roles to the height of energy they all require.
Jeffrey Stvrtecky, Musical Director, leads the TMP Orchestra, which includes Diz Carroll on reeds; Rick Leffler, trumpet; Mick Crosby, trombone; Tim Nordstrom, keyboard; Barbara Burzynski, percussion/drums; Dean Story, piano; Joseph Ralston, bass; Susan Speicher, violin; and Brendan Lane, cello. Stvrtecky keeps the orchestra from drowning out the singers and keeps the singers on the right notes.
Megan Hicks produces some dynamic choreography that enforcers the unity theme of the show. She has each dancer hitting their mark on stage without interfering with the others, only complementing them.
Blake R. York designs a very workable, movable set which first appears as a skeletal Manhattan elevated train trestle that houses the homeless boys for the night. Below the erector set structure, various set pieces are brought to convert the area to different locals.
These alternate locations are highlighted by Jacob Viramontes’ light design. Janet English does costumes. Austin Anderson does sound. Angela Morgan is Stage Manager.
Director Rake has used many players of his worthy stable. Each ensemble actor has a name; the newsboys are: Tony Williams, Mush; Alex Domine, Race; Kekoa Dilay, Finch; Luke Wenceslao, Tommy Boy; Donovan Mahannah, Romeo; Roycen Daley, Albert; Henry Beddoe, Sniper; Timothy Joyce, Jo Jo; Keoni Dilay, Elmer; Andy Ho, Buttons; Summit Geiselman, Specs; Emma DeLoye; Hannah; Nick Fitzgerald, Spot Conlon; Dominic Girolami, Mike; Heather Arneson, Riley; Kayli Christine, Mags; Noelle Dawson, Nan; Jessica Furnstah, Ena; Jill Heinecke, Scout; Liam Loughridge, Spencer.
Other ensemble members who are not Newspaper boys are Sarahlynn Mangan, Ida Hoffman; Scott Mattsen, Henry; Madison Wingerter Ripley, Maxine; and Jasmine Wright, Dali.
All of these young Thespians and Terpsichoreans follow the teachings of those after whom they identify and turn in admirable performances in acting, song and dance. Their energy seems never ending and their reactions to their plight are perfect.
Additional supporting cast members, doing two roles are John Miller as Seitz and Wiesel; and Peter Seto as Nunzio and Snyder; Johnny Neidlinger does three roles, Bunsen, Mayor and Jacobi.
Jason Paul Lewis and Griffin Cox play Morris and Oscar Delancey, respectively. These two are the goons who work for the newspapers; they enforce the change of the extra 10 cents the boys have to pay for their papers.
Deanna Martinez is Medda Larkin, the show gal who befriends Jack and tries to help him make the right decisions.
John Munn is semi-villainous Joseph Pulitzer. Munn has a nice singing voice when presenting his clever song in the first act, “The Bottom Line,” where he decides how to raise the circulation of his faltering paper.
Ashley Koon is Katherine Plummer, the novice, young journalist who writes about Jack’s plight and keeps a secret from him in the beginning, which spills out the more involved the two become. Koon has a very good singing voice; her acting is good and she has developed a good character.
Colin Briskey is Davey, a young boy who joins the Newsies, hopefully temporarily, to help out until his father finds another job. Briskey makes Davey a somewhat humble boy who is really smart and ends up with a lot of answers to help Jack succeed in his quest. Briskey has a very good singing voice and can dance equally well; his acting is on the same level.
Howy Howard is Les, Davey’s much younger brother. This youngster has developed an excellent character of an almost gifted lad with cleaver answers, which solve many of the problems Jack’s venture runs into. Howard has a quite good singing voice. He maintains his character through the whole play and always hits his mark and cue – quite good for one of such a young age of ten years.
Sam Bennett is Crutchie, Jack’s best friend, of whom Jack takes care. Because of his crippled leg, Crutchie needs a bit more help than the other homeless boys. Due of his character’s infirmness, Bennett doesn’t take part in many of the dancing numbers; however, he needs no special help with his singing voice or his acting ability; both are quite good.
Jake Atwood, the actor of many dimensions, is our hero, Jack Kelly. Atwood turns in his usual highly anticipated terrific effort. His character is perfectly developed, his singing is right on and his dancing is among the best of the wonderful dancers in this show. Beginning with Atwood leading the Newsies with the stirring “Carry the Banner” through the lovely “Something to Believe In” and on through the Finale with the whole company, Atwood, a true triple threat performer, is simply Jack.
“Disney’s Newsies, the Broadway Musical,” continues at Tacoma Musical Playhouse at 7116 Sixth Avenue, just east of Jackson, through October 7, Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday matinees at 2 p.m.; there are also two special Saturday matinees, at 2 p.m. September 29 and October 6.
For reservations or more information, call the box office at (253) 565-6867 or go online to www.tmp.org.
One could; is it a coincidence that Tacoma’s three most active community theatres all opened their 2018 – 2019 Seasons with three totally diverse plays all of which contain the same theme?
Lakewood Playhouse with Neil Simon’s “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” Tacoma Little Theatre with “The Foreigner” and Tacoma Musical Playhouse with “Newsies.” These three pieces of comic/dramas all have the theme: UNITE. Family is most important in our lives and with unity, we can win over all!