One of my favorite movie musicals is the 1992 Newsies with Christian Bale, Max Casella (Vinnie from Doogie Howser, MD), David Moscow, Bill Pullman, Ann-Margaret (!!!), and Robert Duvall. I must have seen that thing at least 3 times in the movie theatre. I won a copy of the soundtrack on tape by entering a trivia contest. I knew all the words to all the songs and even some of the dance moves. Is it a perfect movie? No, it’s silly and melodramatic and although Christian is dreamy his singing and dancing are less than stellar, but he tried. So when I heard they were making a Broadway version a few years back that didn’t surprise me at all. It’s flashy with cute dancers, catchy songs, and girls my age LOVED it so it had a built-in audience.
Now, even though I live right here in NY I never made it to the actual show on Broadway, so when I saw that it was now available to watch on Netflix I was pretty excited…until I watched it. Now, don’t get me wrong – I didn’t hate it, it just wasn’t the 1992 movie. I felt like they had changed too much – some made sense and some had me yelling at my TV, wondering what Harvey Fierstein (who wrote the book for the Broadway show) was thinking.
Let me preface all of this by saying two things. If you’ve never seen Newsies (the original movie) – you’re missing out. Cute boys, singing and dancing in period costumes, little guys going after big guys, union talk, love and family – it’s got everything! 2nd thing – if you loved Newsies and Broadway, watch the show on Netflix. It’s not terrible – the original songs are great, the leads are all really talented and can sing and dance (circles around most of the big name actors in the movie) and overall it’s fun and was filmed live during an actual performance so you get the awesomeness of Broadway and live theatre while sitting in your PJs on the couch. Also…there are major spoilers in this post so if you do plan on watching the Broadway production and don’t want to know anything beforehand – stop reading, turn on Netflix, enjoy a good show, then come back.
Okay, with all of that out of the way…here’s my Newsies vs. Newsies account. Right off the bat, with the Broadway production – they start off with Jack Kelly, our hero, singing about Santa Fe, which I thought made absolutely NO SENSE unless you’ve seen the original movie because the show takes place in NYC – entirely in NYC. Why do we open a show about NY newsboys singing about a whole other city that’s not in the show? Yes, the song Santa Fe is in the original movie, but the placement here – of moving a song that’s what 2nd or 3rd on the soundtrack, to the number 1 slot made no sense. That made me shake my head for at least the first 20 minutes of the production.
The one change that they made, that I at least understand, was they made the love interest and the news reporter the same person in this show. In the original movie, Jack falls in love with his new best friend’s sister while having dinner at his house one night – there’s also an older reporter, played by Bill Pullman, that writes their story and gets the news about the newsboy strike out to other people. If you count the parents, that’s four characters that would need to be cast and paid for – so, sure, turn the reporter into the woman – give her more to do (bonus!) and have her fall for Jack while they’re on the “job” basically – again, bonus, I love it! It did make the song King of New York a bit awkward (as she’s a woman) but I could look past that honestly.
Now…here comes my big complaint and my biggest spoiler. In the original movie, Jack and his friends sneak in and use an old printing press of Joseph Pulitzer’s to create their Newsboy union paper and get the word out about child labor. It’s my absolute favorite song of the movie and I swear, I want to get up and dance and sing full out every time I hear it. So…maybe this is me just being protective – but in the Broadway production, instead of Jack knowing where the press is, the reporter woman knows the press is there because…hold the phone…she’s Pulitzer’s daughter. What?!?! Come on, is that even historically accurate? And then…out of nowhere, all these other newspaper kids come in – William Randolph Hearst’s son is there and knows exactly what to do and he’ll fix everything. I wasn’t a fan of this. At all. Like…I even went and looked up reviews to see if I was the only one annoyed by this and apparently I was because this little tidbit wasn’t mentioned in any review. So…I digress there. But seriously, the YouTube clip below is the original number – watch it, love it, be it! 🙂
It left an odd taste in my mouth for the rest of the movie, but…overall, I enjoyed the production. I would watch it again – and probably will because the songs are catchy, the dance moves are fun, and the Broadway actors are top notch performers. They made me root for them, laugh with them, cry with them (poor Crutchy!), and want to dance around my apartment singing for days. They did their job! I just wish they would have left out the weird…oh, by the way, I’m your enemy’s daughter and now it’s Romeo and Juliet thing. No!
The other thing…and I just realized this yesterday after re-watching the 1992 movie, but Ann-Margaret’s songs are completely gone and replaced by a whole new one. It’s a good song, and the Broadway performer is really great – but I’m wondering now if Ann-Margaret owned those original songs from the movie or if Harvey just decided they were too familiar with Ann-Margaret because of the movie and the Meadowlark on Broadway is very different. Not sure…but both work, the character isn’t seen as much in the Broadway production and I had wished they would have left the big rally number in, but again, this is a change that made sense for time and energy – they would have needed a whole new set piece, a new song, more dancing and a fight sequence which would have cost time and money.
So it seems like I’m totally ripping on the Broadway production, and I swear I’m not – the original movie is so much a part of my teenage years and I hold a special place in my heart that it’s hard to see something new and different with the same general pieces. I love the original movie, but I also liked the Broadway production. Would I have enjoyed it more seeing it live, maybe – maybe not, I might have been more pissed off that I spent good money and was disappointed at the changes. Or maybe I would have looked past the changes made because live theatre is so immersive and fun in and of itself. We will never know. I’m just thankful that people are filming live theatre and making it accessible to everyone. That’s always a good thing in my book.
What’s your favorite movie musical? Or favorite Broadway musical? What show are you hoping they film and make accessible to everyone? My hope is Hamilton (of course) and Wicked – although I heard a movie is coming..anyone else hear that? Do you love Newsies? Did you see the Broadway production, either live or on Netflix, what did you think? Let me know in the comments and remember to keep Carrying the Banner!