That’s the story, based on true events, which is the subject of the Broadway at Music Circus current production, Disney’s “Newsies.”
At the turn of the 20th century, some 10,000 boys sold newspapers on the streets of New York, many of them orphaned and homeless. The boys paid to get the newspapers, and if they did not sell, the publishers would not buy them back.
During the Spanish-American war, when the desire for news was high, the publishers raised the price charged to the boys from 50 cents per hundred to 60 cents per hundred. But at the end of the war, when the interest dropped, publishers Pulitzer and Hearst did not reduce the price the boys paid, even though other publishers did. The boys demanded a return to the price that their peers at other papers were paying.
Under the leadership of a 15-year-old boy named Kid Blink, the “newsies” organized, held massive outdoor meetings and after two weeks, the publishers and the newsies compromised — they would keep the higher price, but would buy back any unsold papers. The stand-off was considered a major step in the child-labor movement.
In 1992, the story was made into a Disney movie, and in 2014 an award-winning musical with music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Jack Feldman, and book by Harvey Fierstein. It is now a premier for Broadway at Music Circus.
Entering the Wells Fargo Pavilion is like walking into a Brooklyn tenement, with apartments over each doorway, all joined together in a spiderweb of clothes lines, each with laundry hanging from them.
“Kid Blink” (decidedly not the best name for the hero of this tale) is now Jack Kelly (Joey Barreiro), an older teen (so he can have a love interest), but the basics of the story are still there.
For “heart” there is “Crutchie” (Blake Stadnik), who has been crippled and walks with a crutch and is a perfect victim for the goons of the publishers trying to squelch the boys.
There is a love interest, Katherine (Laurie Veldheer), a reporter trying to make it in a male-dominated world, and hiding a surprising secret.
There is Davey (John Krause) and his little brother Les (Josh Davis) who, unlike the others, have a home and parents, but who join the others in selling the papers and protesting the fee increase.
But this show belongs to the newsies themselves (if you look closely you can see Davis High’s Jimin Moon). The dancing is amazing and you do get the feel of their camaraderie as well as their desperation.
Paul Schoeffler is powerful as Joseph Pulitzer, who only cares about money and doesn’t have a bit of compassion for the kids (gee … where have we heard that lately?).
Music Circus’ ubiquitous Ron Wisniski has a short but outstanding appearance as a bombastic Teddy Roosevelt (then governor of New York), which earned him well-deserved applause as he left the stage.
The high-energy physicality and enthusiasm of the cast make this an engaging production — and of course the David vs. Goliath struggle is always good to keep an audience entertained!
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