Released in 1992, Newsies the movie was received with a lack of enthusiasm. However, its spirit lived on – and when it was revived as a regional New Jersey production, it went on to spawn huge Broadway and West End successes.
So, how did Newsies the movie, a box-office bomb, become Newsies the Broadway sensation? Let’s examine five important factors.
1. Changing times
In 1992, musical films were out of fashion. This happens with all kinds of film genres; one moment, a certain type of movie is the in thing and the next, general audiences lose interest, gravitating towards something else.
The last decade or so has seen a movie musical renaissance: La La Land, The Greatest Showman, and A Star is Born were all box office hits, and many more musical films attracted large audiences.
In any case, while Newsies didn’t set cinema box offices alight, it refused to go away. It maintained a small but dedicated fanbase which grew in successive years, resulting in numerous amateur productions – before Disney decided the time was right to once more bring its influence to bear.
2. Character enhancements
In its latest iteration, Disney’s Newsies has more female characters, which means it offers more for both male and female audiences.
Perhaps the most important change is the creation of reporter Katherine Plumber. She’s an amalgamation of two movie characters: Sarah Jacobs – Jack’s original love interest and the sister of Davey and Les – and Bryan Denton, a New York Sun journalist. This is a reflection of real-life events: Katherine is modelled on Nellie Bly, a trail-blazing 16-year-old investigative reporter.
The other characters are more fully developed too. Take Jack Kelly, the show’s main character as an example. Rather than simply being the rough-and-ready newsboy of the film, he now has a more sensitive side, and demonstrates greater integrity and loyalty. His relationship with Crutchie is given more focus, which means the production as a whole offers greater emotional resonance.
3. New songs
While the film’s premise remains pretty much unchanged, a number of new or updated songs have been added to the theatrical production, including Watch What Happens, Brooklyn’s Here and Something to Believe in. Conversely, two original songs have been jettisoned – My Lovey-Dovey Baby and High Times, Hard Times – and replaced with Medda Larkin’s That’s Rich.
4. Updated lyrics
In revamped form, Newsies features lyrics that better chime with modern-day concerns, which makes sense given that one of the musical’s taglines is ‘The perfect musical for our time’.
5. Improved choreography
Thanks to freshly choreographed sequences, the Newsies Broadway musical quickly made a huge impression. This change represents one of the biggest differences between the movie and the theatrical production. Consequently, the show has significantly more energy and offers greater visual interest.
Would you like to see a true story brought to musical life? Come and watch the tale about a boy with big dreams live in theatre. Book your tickets today!