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Newspaper Musical Touches Aspiring Journalists

Julia Block

Disney’s “Newsies: The Broadway Musical” (2017) directed by Brett Sullivan and Jeff Calhoun, is based on the Disney movie, “Newsies” (1992), both of which tell the story of Joseph Pulitzer and William Hearst raising the price of distribution for the newsboys of 1899. 


This version of the Broadway musical was filmed live on stage so viewers and fans could watch the outstanding performance, based on the real Newsboys Strike of 1899, from the comfort of their own homes. 


Pulitzer and Hearst were both dominant news leaders, but when the prices for the circulation of the newspapers rose, the newsboys, or “newsies,” formed their own union and went on strike. 


The musical has a handful of main characters: Jack Kelly (Jeremy Jordan), Katherine Pulitzer (Kara Lindsay), Crutchie (Andrew Keenan-Bolger), Davey (Ben Fankhauser) and Joseph Pulitzer (Steve Blanchard). 


Despite not being mentioned, the rest of the cast and ensemble in this production are also extremely talented actors, dancers and singers.


The performance of Jeremy Jordan as Jack Kelly, leader of the newsies, truly makes the show. His theatrical performances are always impressive, and he portrayed his role with such passion and emotion that he makes it seem easy, not to mention his sensational singing performances.  


Also, Kara Lindsay’s song, “Watch What Happens,” tells a lot about the circumstances for female reporters during this time period and frames the importance of the newsies’ success in a beautiful way. It is also one of the greatest musical theater songs out there for female vocalists. 


In the show, the newsies’ strike against Pulitzer’s New York World with courage, as well as the attitude, “Pulitzer may own the World, but he don’t own us.”


The newsies speak with forms of slang, throughout the course of the show, in both speech and song, but the show makes it easy to understand the slang and love the characters using it not far into the musical. 


Also, the soundtrack is great to listen to on its own. The majority of songs have amazing dance breaks with excellent orchestral parts, and the music smoothly and effortlessly carries the plot. 


The music also helps add to the already captivating storyline by showing the audience the characters’ feelings and thoughts about the situations they’re facing.


“King of New York” is one of my favorite examples of a dance break, and orchestral talent done correctly, as it demonstrates how the music has an impact on the story and characters progressing throughout.   The tap routine, with jazz music implemented, also gives insight on the newsies feelings that made their strike a big deal since they were on the front page of the newspaper. 


Furthermore, all while fighting the battle against Pulitzer, Jack finds himself unknowingly falling in love with Katherine, not realizing her relationship to Joseph Pulitzer in the scheme of the musical’s plot.


As an aspiring journalist, this musical has come to be one of my favorites, but apart from that, it is also one of the few musicals with such a large male cast, and it is evident that the group is professional and works well together. 


There are also a lot of great sets and effects used in the show. The “Carrying the Banner” opener introducing many of the newsies has its first important chorus with the cast on a tall, building-like structure that takes up a large portion of the stage. That set up alone can make jaws drop and eyes light up.


As for effects, there are a lot of cool projections that interact with the actors and actresses on stage. 


For example, when the newsies are waiting to see what headline they get to lead with for their day of distribution, a projector writes out the headline with chalk on the chalkboard to make the reveal more realistic and lively. Even though this could have simply been done easily with an extra line spoken in the show or an already set posting before the scene began, the effort of making everything happen right before our eyes does not go unnoticed. 


Overall, while the musical is lengthy to watch, the story is easy to sit through. You can easily become invested in the story and, most likely, fall in love with it, even if there isn’t an interest in the historical aspects of the show.

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