The 1990s continue to be good for Disney. Aladdin and The Lion King are still London’s biggest stage spectacles, while hype around next month’s Beauty and the Beast remake is already making us revisit a tale as old as our childhoods, if not quite as old as time. Before then another 90s Disney story is back in cinemas, but you’ve probably not heard it before.
Newsies was a 1992 Razzie-winning musical film flop featuring a young Christian Bale. Through video and DVD releases, it slowly grew a cult following that convinced Disney to take it to the stage. Originally intended for a limited run, the show with a rewritten plot and additional songs stayed on Broadway for three years and won two Tony awards. On Sunday 19th February, Newsies: The Broadway Musical is in UK cinemas and earlier this week I joined some of the ‘fansies’ for a preview. Here’s five reasons why you might want to get your tickets and watch what happens.
It’s a story about protest and who controls the media
Very loosely based on the Newsboys’ Strike of 1899, Newsies pits the teenagers selling papers on street corners against Joseph Pulitizer, owner of The World. With the help of budding reporter Katherine, they form a union and strike. The plot left me with gentle and clear messages about leadership, building coalitions and social justice. It’s not as radical or angry as Rent, another NYC protest musical, but is just as rousing and timely a story for 2017.
Jeremy Jordan is stunning
Known for TV roles in Smash and Supergirl, Jeremy Jordan puts his good looks and swagger to great use playing Jack Kelly. He gives an easy, at some points emotional performance as the conflicted Newsies leader who wants to escape the downtrodden city life. Santa Fe especially shows off his natural musical theatre vocals and beautiful face with plenty of close-ups to appreciate. Steve Blanchard also makes his mark in the show as the calculated Joseph Pulitzer.
There’s tough guys in vests doing backflips and tap
The three-dozen male ensemble supporting Jeremy Jordan left me unexpectedly thirsty for a Wednesday morning. Christopher Gattelli’s award-winning choreography, full of blackflips, spins, leaps and a tap number perfectly matches Alan Menken’s music and Jack Feldman’s playful lyrics. While there’s no stand-out songs on first listen, I was humming the tunes on my way home and remembering the sheer joy of those dance breaks. Now I’ve got the soundtrack firmly on repeat.
It’s all filmed very well
This specially-recorded performance succeeds at placing you in the theatre as much as it can and never falls flat. In the odd moment the live theatre audience sounded like a forced laughter track, but one I was mostly laughing along with. The camera angles make you look up as if you’re there and sweeps through the stage at all the right moments, while the fight scene is cut together well to put you in middle of the action. Don’t think this is a quick or lazy recording. Disney wants everyone to experience the musical, and that’s how they’ve shot it.
It’s Disney, of course it’s a bit predictable
Yes, there’s a romance sub-plot I could do without including a boy, a girl and an Alan Menken love duet. By the end of Act One, I could see the ending coming but not how we’d get there. I cared about the characters and wanted to come back to watch more.
And ultimately, that’s why you should go see Newsies. Its exceptionally high production values brings a bit of Disney Broadway predictability, comfort and fun to your local cinema. Book your tickets and enjoy. You can watch Songs of Praise on catch-up. What else would you do on a Sunday afternoon?
Newsies: The Broadway Musical is in selected UK cinemas on Sunday 19th February, and various dates internationally. Check www.newsiesthemusical.com to find out where it’s screening near you and book tickets.
Next on My Gay Agenda is Rent, Wicked and Moonlight.