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  • Writer's pictureKara Chatham

Broadway vs. Silver Screen: Newsies

This is post is going to cover both versions of Disney’s musical Newsies. Check out the vlog where I talk about the stage adaptation mostly.

Historical Background: Newsies is based on the Newsboys Strike of 1899 in New York City. Big name newspapers Hearst’s Journal and Pulitzer's World (the titles differ from source to source. The only thing they could agree on was Journal and World) increased the price of papers from fifty cents to sixty cents per bundle. Not to mention the companies were not allowing the Newsies to sell back the ones they did not sell. This impacted the daily average the Newsies made.

Even though both film and musical have Jack “Cowboy” Kelly as the main leader of the strike, it was actually Kid Blink - who is a minor character in both productions - who led the union. There isn’t much information on Kid Blink, which may be why they decided to create a character to lead the strike. Both Jack and David are pure fiction. Jack depicts the “ideal” newsie and David shows the struggle of the working class. Each have historical influence, but neither character actually existed.

Basics of Each:

The original movie was released by Disney in 1992. It stars Christian Bale as that renegade of dreamer, Jack “Cowboy” Kelly and Robert Duvall as the owner of the New York World newspaper, Joseph Pulitzer.

The stage musical was first performed in September 2011. The first stage Jack Kelly was portrayed by Jeremy Jordan. The Broadway musical was awarded two Tony’s in 2012 for Best Score and Best Choreography.

I saw this musical performed on Friday, January 23, 2015 at the Fox Theatre. These newsboys were lead by Dan DeLuca as the very swoon worthy, Jack Kelly. DeLuca was an exceptional Kelly! He had that “Cowboy” Charm that makes “Santa Fe” an incredible dream worth dreaming.

Similarities & Differences: I LOVE how long “Santa Fe” is spread out in the stage adaptation! “Santa Fe” is my favorite song of the original musical. It has such a beautiful melody and the lyrics that are paired with it are just as beautiful. In the stage musical, the song comes across as this “dreamer’s paradise” ideal. The original musical has it portrayed as the ideal paradise of Jack Kelly and only Jack Kelly.

I like Medda’s song in the stage musical a whole lot better than the original, silver screen musical. It’s more amusing and less “lovey dovey”, which suits my tastes better.

I wish they would have kept “High Times, Hard Times” from the original. Seeing how they altered the storyline a bit, I’m not entirely sure where it could have fit in exactly but I still would have liked to have it in the stage performance. Maybe it could still fit in where it was originally, before the rally at Medda’s.

The swap of Denton and Sarah for Katherine… If you have never seen the original musical, then you’re probably wondering who Denton and Sarah are. Denton is the reporter from the New York Sun - the paper that makes the newsies famous. Sarah is David “Davey”’s sister that Jack becomes interested in. In the stage musical, Katherine serves as both reporter and love interest. While this combination of characters makes the love story more entertaining, I don’t know if it was important or even needed for them to change that aspect of the storyline.

I feel like Jack Kelly is more of a complex character on stage and maybe that is because we see more of the internal fight he has with himself about the strike. In the film it does not look like he cares too much about all of the boys. The connection with Crutchie is still there and I think on the stage the connection is much stronger and more beautiful.

We don’t see a whole lot of Snyder on stage compared to how often he seems to appear in the film. Because there is less of a stage presence, the blood-lust, if you will, that Snyder has for Jack Kelly. Snyder’s presence in the film adds to the convict side of Jack Kelly’s character that does not really even begin to make sense until the end of the stage performance.


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