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Newsies, the 1992 Disney musical about a group of newspaper boys who organize a labor strike in 1899 is getting adapted in to a stage musical which will run from September 15 through October 16, 2011 at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, NJ.
The New York Times is reporting that the film’s three principal newsboy characters – Jack, David and Les – will be joined onstage by a new female character who will serve as a love interest for Jack. Although a new book for the show is being written by Harvey Fierstein, this stage-bound version of Newsies will feature the original songs from the film as well as new material from the film’s original lyricist and composer, Alan Menken and Jack Feldman.
When first released, Newsies was one of the biggest flops of 1992. The film was savaged by critics and audiences stayed away in droves. The film grossed just under $3 million, a fraction of its $15 million budget. Menken, who has won three Academy Awards, was given a “Razzie” for Worst Original Song.
But in subsequent years, the film found itself an audience through home video sales and in the Times piece, Menken reports that through his own two daughters, now aged 22 and 25, he discovered that there is a whole generation of fans who grew up on the film and feel a certain proprietorship towards it.
I’d come to a mall, and there would be one of those areas where people perform [and] they’d be doing ‘Seize the Day,’ I’d go, ‘Look at that!’… [My Daughter] are more protective about Newsies than all the other projects I’ve done, combined… It is ridiculous. It’s really ridiculous. When I told them about a certain song that got cut, they got viscerally angry at me. ‘Oh no you don’t. Oh no. No, Dad, no.’ It’s like they own it and I don’t.
Newsies director Kenny Ortega managed to pay Disney back by directing the mega-successful High School Musical franchise for the studio, while the film’s lead Christian Bale went on to stardom as Batman in Christopher Nolan’s successful version of the popular comic book character in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Another of Newsies‘ cast, Max Casella, went on to be a lead in Disney’s stage version of The Lion King.
Encouragingly, Menken is quoted as saying that Fierstein’s book has “latched onto exciting elements of what we had in the movie” and is “minimizing the things that were not so great about the movie.”
While I am one of those who caught up with Newsies on home video, I never really took a shine to it as others seem to have. In fact, while I am sure that I have watched it, I don’t have any firm recollections of the film itself. (Perhaps a reviewing is in order.) With the film’s built in fan base, I would not be surprised if this stage adaptation does good business. And if the critics are kinder this time, I would suspect we’ll see further productions mounted in the future.