It was 1992 and Disney was in its prime: The company was making millions after hit animated musicals such as The Little Mermaid and Aladdin. During this time the idea emerged to try to revive the live action movie musicals of the old days. Thus, Newsies was born.
The energetic musical tells the true story of the Newsboys Strike of 1899 and stars none other than a young Christian Bale. Though it was a huge box office flop the film lived on as a VHS cult classic among children and adults, building an enormous fan base over the years.
After years of requests and urgings from fans, Alan Menken – the original composer of Newsies – and Harvey Fierstein teamed up to adapt the film for the stage.
This fall marked the debut of the newly imagined "Newsies" at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey, a highly regarded regional theater. Jeremy Jordan, whose credits include "West Side Story," stars as Jack Kelly, the role originally played by Bale. Significant changes to the film have been made, including the addition of a prominent female love interest, which was sufficiently lacking in the original film. Many songs have been tweaked and new ones added; fan favorite "King of New York" is now a jubilant tap number.
The improvements were successful enough to gather praise from a New York Times critic who remarked, "‘Newsies' has a stirring, old-school sincerity that is hard to resist."
Some, however, regard the stage musical as a regional-only production. Disney's original intention was to market the rights toward high school and community theaters, but the reaction to Paper Mill's production was much more radiant than anticipated: The theater sold out every night and fans from all over the country gathered to see their childhood memories brought to life on stage.
Rumors started circulating after the Paper Mill production's closing that the show might make a move to Broadway. After a flurry of speculation, on Tuesday Nov. 15, "Newsies" was slated for a limited spring engarement for 2012 at Broadway's Nederlander Theater.
The story of a working class group rising up against big business is certainly one that anyone, especially in our current times, can relate to. It would seem that the newsboys were some of the original 99 percent, occupying the streets of New York long before today's protesters.