Disnification that Matters?! —-NEWSIES: The Musical—–

Posted on: October 23rd, 2011 by Patrick Fromuth No Comments

High School Musical…eh. Glee…PSH!

Kids these days are growing up with a lot of song and dance in their lives, but whatever happened to some good old fashion DISNEY!

A week ago today I found me some Disney… and it was about time! For the past week I have been networking and interviewing in NYC and was able to steal away for the afternoon over to the Papermill Playhouse in Millburn, N.J. to see NEWSIES: The Musical. The Newsie NAILING IT on the left of the poster above is Jordan Barrow from Fromuth Production’s STRIPPED. Click to hear Jordan’s “Nobody’s Perfect” by Jessie J

As a child growing up Alan Menken was the SOLE reason I started to sing. From Aladdin, Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Hercules, etc. he composed the score to my childhood. It made me raise my voice and become gay. Wait?! I didn’t mean that! Well…maybe. Nevertheless, NEWSIES was never on my radar. The first time I heard of it was when my voice teacher Johnny Steiner thought I should sing Santa Fe from NEWSIES at my Senior Voice recital/Graduation/Birthday Party at my house (as you can gather, I wanted to be the center of attention that day).

Watch at your own risk… Over acting & memory loss abounds! 

After being assigned the song, I rented the movie and was absolutely enthralled: the story, the dancing, Christian Bale’s attempt at speak-singing. Why hadn’t I ever heard about this film before? The answer is simply because the 1992 film flopped. Alan Menken’s venture away from Disney animation did not pan out so well; the plot centers around the 1899 NYC Newsboy strike against the tyrant newspaper publishers of the day (Pulitzer and Hearst) who supposedly raised the Newsies distrubution price to increase profit. Despite its troubles on the silver screen, NEWSIES: The Musical might just have exactly what it takes to make its way to Broadway.

Check out how it is REALLY done. (When you see the end of this clip you will TRULY know why I leave the singing to the professionals. Jack’s Santa Fe Act I closer and his PERFECT DISMOUNT of a last note moved me to my core. I verbally gasped as did many around me.

They were able to go back and fix a lot of issues with the movie – Christian Bale’s voice being top on my list. They added charm and heart to the characters especially to Jack Kelly, the 17 year old Manhattan Newsie leader played by the talented Jeremy Jordon. They made Jack an artist who sought escape during the storyline in the refuge of a New York Theater – making his dreams of Santa Fe grounded and believable. In addition, they added Katherine Plumber, a smart and spunky love interest for Jack, played to perfection by Kara Lindsay.

Jordan and Lindsay both gave epic performances. Their voices, comedic timing, and chemistry were terrific. Check out this clip of Lindsay tearing up the sitzprobe:

These were just some of the changes that were made making the stakes higher and accurately conveying the heart and soul of this important piece.

The show still has a bit of work to do, but I’d say the show is about 95% ready for Broadway. In my opinion, the ending was a little bit too tidy and lacked suspense. The plot needs a better build, which could be helped by easing into the full throttle choreography. The dancing, while mind blowingly athletic, is constantly at 150% from start to finish, which sadly looses its epic, awe factor toward the end. More importantly, I believe the creative team can – and should – strengthen the overarching message against child labor. The show focuses on the oppressive Child Labor issues in America and specifically in New York City at the turn of the century. However, they fail to bridge the domestic battle to the global atrocities that still continue today. With a simple and appropriate mention of the detrimental effects that these practices have on our foreign brothers and sisters, I believe Disney can make more of a contemporary impact on the horrible treatment of youth workers that still persists today.

I truly LOVED this show and hope the best for its future. It is the kind of show I wish Disney produced more often. One with heart, power, and impact. I see this show – due to its large size and, therefore, high costs – to have a limited engagement on Broadway, but I hope that I am wrong. So when it does get to Broadway…GO SEE IT! The voices, the dancing, and the passion of this story will have you remembering the magic of our Disney childhoods.

Check out this “Deleted Scene” from the Musical created by Andrew Keenan-Bolger (Michigan Alum) playing “Crutchie” and the cast of NEWSIES. Andrew explains , “A special thank you from the Papermill NEWSIES to the Fansies!
Julie Foldesi & Company perform that random/amazing part from the film where “Patrick’s Mother” serves up a voice lesson in 16 bars.”

I hope they put this pack into the show!