I am a horrible cynic.
Also, I try my very hardest not to judge a thing until I see it, so let me say: I am not judging Newsies the stage musical. I am just judging the videos I can find online.
To give a little bit of background: I was in this musical revue in junior high where it was allegedly all about Broadway music, yet included, among other things, two songs from Newsies. I never saw the movie as a kid (I ardently avoided most films that didn’t have female protagonists as a child, which I’m sure I’ve mentioned, and also I just never had cause to see it) but I watched it multiple times in junior high as such. Ours was a cast of mostly female newsies, but we all wrangled terrible knickers and vests and newsboy caps out of costume storage and performed the dances with aplomb.
Our “King of New York” dance wasn’t unlike the one in the video, fundamentally; granted, we didn’t have any lady reporter hiking up her skirts for no conceivable reason, but hey. We tapped away, and it wasn’t much different, again. The overwhelming feeling I’m getting watching the videos on the official Newsies website was… wow, we sure didn’t pump our arms that much. I don’t remember the film’s newsies pumping their arms so much either. But there are a lot of arm movements. To the point that now that I’m thinking about it it’s sort of distracting.
I think the main theoretical issue I’m having with Newsies, based on what I’m seeing, is that it’s not bringing anything new to the table. (Also wow, I just saw the lady reporter kiss one of the boys. God forbid there be a lady reporter who just reports on things and then leaves, right?) It stylistically seems a lot like the movie. It’s not surprising. They’re tap dancing. They’re wearing hats. They’re throwing news papers around. Whoo?
I mean, they’re all fine. A stage full of boys doing cartwheels is kind of cool, I guess, though I really don’t understand why they’re all dancing with newspapers under their feet for no reason.
Also, let’s talk about that set from what I’m seeing? That three-story scaffolding/light wall combination looks… surprisingly like the Next to Normal set, with more newsboys dancing on/around it. And I love that set for Next to Normal. It makes sense. But it’s… I don’t know, it feels (like something that was already done for a show I like a lot better and that came first) somehow inappropriate? I’m a snob, but light walls are for rock musicals. Light walls feel modern to me: modern settings, modern score.
Newsies is a good old-fashioned musical. It seems very passable. It’s just underwhelming, and that feeling is growing the more videos I watch. And that disappoints me a little.
–your fangirl heroine.