Friday, September 30, 2011

EXTRA! EXTRA!: Newsies to Broadway?

To me, the only surprising thing about the idea that the new stage musical version of Disney's Newsies might be headed to Broadway, is that it is finally in print.  I had an inkling the minute it was announced.

It is true that Disney has a history of mounting productions of stage versions of it movies to see how the adaptation plays before releasing it for licensing to theatre groups.  One of those productions, 101 Dalmatians resulted in a National Tour.  Most recently, a staged Aladdin  played in California.  Neither materialized into a Broadway (or even off-Broadway) production.  So how could I have guessed that this would be different?

"Sieze the Day!"

1.  It's a question of company-wide marketing.  The Disney powers that be announced about a year ago that it would try to veer from girl-centric "princess" properties in order to bring boys into the fold.  You'd think Aladdin would fit that bill.  Newsies certainly fits the bill - there's only 1 supporting female character of note in the film version, which is ABOUT boys.

2.  It is a question of funding.  The press given that production of Aladdin would not repeatedly mention that the production was on a very limited budget, with very few extra special effects.  Of course, it makes sense.  No one but Disney has a Disney budget, and if it is to be licensed to everyday theatre companies, it must be seen as a viable possibility.  The press for Newsies, while mentioning it as a try-out for licensing, is receiving a "full production" at the Paper Mill Playhouse.

Doesn't this seem pretty elaborate for a
"any theatre can do this show" show?

3.  It is a question of creative staffing.  Come on.  If Newsies were never under consideration for at least a National Tour, would multiple Tony-winner Harvey Fierstein come on board as a book writer, completely overhauling the story and making it more "current audience friendly"?  Would Alan Menken have rearranged the score and written new songs? (Aladdin featured new material - all from the original film cuts)  And there is director-choreographer Jeff Calhoun, much in demand and high profile this season with his Broadway-bound production of Bonnie and Clyde.

4.  It is a question of location, location, location.  If you don't want to be noticed by the biggest fish in the pond, you don't produce a full-out production in the same pond!

A new central love story, and Broadway's hottest star
of the moment, Jeremy Jordan

5.  It is a question of press.  Look at the coverage of Newsies in just The New York Times  and on Playbill Online.  It is certainly befitting of any Broadway-bound production.  Maybe the press people at Paper Mill Playhouse are THAT good.  But Disney, I'm sure, has a full grasp on very word printed about it anywhere in the world.  The Times gave the production a full review, one of those multimedia features, and, in its Fall Preview of the Arts, the only article about Broadway musicals this season was about star Jeremy Jordan doing two shows this season - Bonnie and Clyde and NewsiesPlaybill Online has been running feature articles on the show for weeks - interviews with Jordan, a "Cue and A" with the new female lead/love interest, and several videos featuring the show.  There are Broadway shows already on Broadway that don't get that much ink or cyberspace.

Whether or not the show gets to Broadway remains to be seen at this point.  It'll be disappointing at this point if it doesn't.  But it won't be all that unexpected if it does.

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