Discover the history and inspiration behind the Broadway musical seen by over a million people.
"There's change coming, once and for all."
This is one of the many memorable lyrics from Newsies: The Broadway Musical - an exhilarating and joyful production that has captured the hearts of many for its entertainment value but also the deeply inspiring history behind it.
Based on the 1992 musical film Newsies which was inspired by the Newsboys Strike of 1899, the show follows the charismatic leader of the Manhattan newsboys, Jack Kelly, as he forms a union of Newsies when the price of newspapers they purchase to sell to the public increases.
The musical premiered at the Paper Mill Playhouse in September 2011 and after a sold-out run, it moved to the Nederlander Theatre on Broadway in March 2012, where it played to packed audiences for two-and-a-half years.
It was a sleeper hit that many didn’t see coming - but what exactly is it about Newsies: The Broadway Musical that made it such a success? Well, its ability to address the exploitation and injustice faced by young underprivileged boys makes it a unique production with both entertainment at its core and deeply moving storytelling based on a movement that changed America.
A newsie is often referred to as a person who sells or delivers newspapers to the public. The newsie rose to prominence in the 1800s as the American newspaper industry continued to flourish, thanks to major publishers like Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst.
At the turn of the century and in the midst of the revolutionary growth of newspapers in the United States, newsies were at the centre of it all, bridging the gap between the provider and the consumer.
However, these key figures were often uncompensated and many of them were working-class kids, orphans and runaways who were exploited by the industry.
It has often been considered as the first paying job for young boys and was a key source of income for many who would use the money they earned from selling papers to provide for themselves with the little that they made.
This was made even more difficult when Pulitzer and Hearst chose to raise the prices on their newspapers from 50 cents to 60 cents.
This act became a major catalyst for change and the newsboys came together and decided to refuse to sell Pulitzer and Hearst’s papers.
This led to strikes across New York City, led by Louis Ballatt, known as Kid Blink, and the protests ran from July 18 – August 2, 1899.
While the newsies failed to get the price of papers lowered, the strike was successful in getting the publishers to offer full buybacks to their sellers, which boosted the amount of money that newsies received for their work.
Most importantly, the strikes changed the trajectory of the American workforce and the treatment of newsies across the country, with strikes taking place in Montana in 1914 and in Louisville, Kentucky in the 1920s.
Additionally, the urban child welfare practice was introduced a few decades later and led to the improvement of the Newsboys' quality of life and wellbeing.
The history of the newsie - from their ability to overcome personal struggles to mobilising against injustice - made their stories a defining moment in American history which was later immortalised in film.
Inspired by the true events, Newsies, which starred a young Christian Bale, brought the story of the newsboys and their plight to light, complete with original songs by Alan Menken and an underscore by J. A. C. Redford.
The 1992 film went on to become a cult Disney classic and partially inspired its foray into musical theatre.
Disney Theatrical Productions produced a stage musical based on the film, which played at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn from September 25 - October 16 2011.
Directed by Jeff Calhoun, with choreography by Christopher Gattelli and a book by Harvey Fierstein based on the film's screenplay, Newsies: The Musical became a critical and commercial hit and prompted Disney to try a limited 13-week Broadway run.
Much like the newsies themselves - hard-working, determined yet often underrated - the musical was a massive surprise success on Broadway.
The Broadway show, which featured seven new songs not included in the original film, ran from 2012-2014 and played over 1,000 shows, wowing audiences and earning two Tony Awards in 2012.
Newsies: The Broadway Musical is much loved among Broadway and Disney fans alike and marks an important time in history that created much-needed change.
It continues to captivate audiences and will continue to do so for the next generation who are sure to hear the story of the newsies for years to come.
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