“Newsies” Dances to Pioneer Theatre Company

By Josh Petersen, Digital Managing Editor

There is little doubt that the Walt Disney Company is one of the premier forces in Hollywood’s film industry. But for the past two decades, Disney has worked to conquer an arena on the other side of the country: Broadway. The company has been a consistent force in the theater world, producing some of the most commercially successful hits of all time along. Love it or hate it, the company seems poised to stay. And if you have been aching to see some Disney magic live on stage for yourself, Pioneer Theatre Company is giving you the chance this December with a new production of “Newsies.”

“Newsies,” based on the 1992 film of the same name, tells the story of the 1899 Newsboy Strike in New York City. The strike was a campaign led by child workers — who distributed thousands of papers throughout the city — against newspaper publishers Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst. The strike significantly reduced circulation of the papers for several days, leading to a wage increase for the newsboys. In the musical, audiences follow Jack Kelly, the dashing leader of the strike , and his unexpected romance with newspaper reporter Katherine Plumber. The musical also contains scenes in the office of Joseph Pulitzer, showing his changing perspective on the events.

The musical’s source material stands out among the typical Disney adaptations. For one, the film is live-action, eliminating the challenge of portraying an animated world onto a small stage. “Newsies” also differs in subject matter: the film is historical fiction, not fairy tale. While many details from the real-life story are changed to fit the narrative, the show does actually depict an actual event, not an outlandish fantasy. Finally, and maybe most importantly, “Newsies” was hardly a box office hit. While the film has gained a considerable cult fan base, it is not nearly as well known as the average Disney animated film.

Despite these key differences, “Newsies” boasts Disney’s famous showmanship and charm. And the show became a respectable success for the company. The Broadway production ran for 1,005 performances, and won two Tony Awards. Many of Disney’s stage productions feature lavish costumes or set designs, and while “Newsies” does have an impressive technical design, the real showstopper of this production is the choreography. On Broadway, the show was well known for the seemingly endless leaps and turns of its mostly male cast. In a note on the PTC website, director Karen Azenberg said, “It really is about the dancers. Please take an extra moment to check them out. They’re hard to miss because they’re extraordinary: they fly, and float, and turn, and glide, they defy gravity and physics; they make my heart stop from time to time.”

The show’s unique mix of real-life history and Disney-style happy endings makes this production a definite crowd-pleaser. Anyone interested in seeing “Newsies” should get tickets soon; this show is sure to be popular.

“Newsies” is playing at Pioneer Theatre Company from Dec. 1 to Dec. 20. Show times are 7 p.m. Mon. – Thurs., 7:30 p.m. Fri., and 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday. For more information, visit pioneertheatre.org.