NEWSIES, another musical based on a movie and, I understand, not a very successful one. But the Disney Corporation is never reluctant to recycle a property into a new format. I never saw the film and only knew one song from it, "Santa Fe," a favorite audition piece for young male belters. This new stage version, with a book by Harvey Fierstein and a score by Alan Mencken and Jack Feldman, is highly enjoyable, particularly when the young men are dancing.
NEWSIES is fictionalized account of the 1899 newspaper delivery boy's strike. Historical characters like Joseph Pulitzer (John Dossett) and Governor Theodore Roosevelt share the stage with the real stars of the show, the "newsies." Here's a great story for the age of the 99% versus the 1% -- a group of homeless, poor kids take on the 1% who are cheating them out of an honest wage and win. Their leader, Jack Kelly (Jeremy Jordan) is tough, smart, sensitive and also a fine graphic artist who will become a political cartoonist. Pulitzer is a heartless tycoon and Roosevelt a well-meaning politician. It's simple minded as melodrama always is, but actually the book is quite strong. The songs aren't memorable, but they are pleasant and serviceable. The production (directed by Jeff Calhoun) is relatively simple but effective and the athletic choreography by Christopher Gattelli offers one show-stopper after another.
Jeremy Jordan carries the show effectively. He's not a great singer but a charming presence and a good actor. Kara Lindsay is good in a generic ingenue-y way as his love interest. The stars of the show are the newsies who are terrific young all-around performers.
Disney is being cautious with this show, hedging their bets by listing it as a limited run. It actually deserves to be around for a long time. I saw it on a Wednesday matinee and the balcony was filled with busloads of school kids. They adored it. I wouldn't say I adored it, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.
NEWSIES. Nederlander Theatre. May 9, 2012.