Newsies: A History

by Scott Green

This Walt Disney LIVE stage production is based on a true historical event that changed the world in 1899.  At this time, the streets of New York City were filled with Newsboys peddling the newspapers of Joseph Pulitzer, William Randolph Hearst, and several other newspaper distributors. This was the only way poor orphans and runaways could earn a hot meal, nightly shelter, and maybe a few cents for themselves.  But when the greedy giants of the newspaper world joined together and raised the newsie price for the papers, this made life even more difficult for the children who sold them. So the boys banded together, went on strike, and ended up changing the world.

The true story of the newsies first caught the attention of husband and wife Bob and Noni Tzudiker. The couple found it to be a film-worthy tale and subsequently, wrote their first screenplay based on the stories of these urban American children who were forced to work the streets selling papers to survive. In 1992, Walt Disney released the musical film version based on this screenplay. The Disney company added music by Alan Menken (music) and Jack Feldman (lyrics), and the film was directed by Kenny Ortega. Starring a young Christian Bale (who never sang or danced in his life) and acting veterans Bill Pullman, Robert Duvall and Ann Margret.  Sadly, Newsies was not well received in theaters and was considered a box office flop.

Several years later, the Disney Channel launched, and the film aired multiple times as ‘filler’ for the new network’s schedule. Those showings introduced a whole new generation of children and adults to the Newsie magic that had been missed by so many in theaters. Over the years, Newsies developed a strong cult following and built and grew. When Disney launched their Theatrical Broadway Productions, Newsies became the most requested story to be turned into a staged production by fans all over the globe.

Finally, in 2010, in response to the overwhelming demand, Harvey Fierstein rewrote the screenplay and made a few changes to turn a feature film flop into a successful theatrical production.  Newsies opened at the Paper Mill Playhouse in 2011 for a limited run but was later extended due to record-breaking box office success. Finally, Newsies was invited to move to BROADWAY at the Nederlander Theater and became a Critically acclaimed Tony Award-winning Broadway Smash Hit.

After it closed on Broadway, Newsies embarked on a two-year tour with new actors. This continued to solidify and grow the now passionate fanbase. Right before Newsies ended the national tour, Disney invited its original Broadway stars back for one more performance. They rehearsed for 3 months for the final performance, which was filmed live in front of an audience. It was then released on the big screen nation-wide through Fathom Events.


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