Making Headlines: Newsies Is Freshly Inked for Broadway

By Frank DiLella
14 Mar 2012

Kara Lindsay and Jeremy Jordan
photo by T. Charles Erickson

After several workshops, Newsies made headlines last fall when it opened to critical raves at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey. While Paper Mill was supposed to be the only stop for the show (with the musical going directly to licensing after that), audiences demanded more — and the Disney team realized that they could either stop the project or "Seize the Day," as a song from the show goes, and continue on.

"I've gotten to a certain point where nothing about Newsies surprises me," says Alan Menken when asked about the property's resurgence. "It was an assignment at hand when I first took it on — and it did abysmally at the box office. Why would there ever be a future for this film? Yet there's this phenomenon going on. Young people know it so well — and with that there's a whole new generation of kids who will soon adopt it as their own."

What is it about this show that made it a hit at Paper Mill? Is it Menken's anthem-based score (including new music that wasn't in the film)? The show's energetic and lovable tweens? Fierstein's reworked story (which adds a love interest for Jack)? Or, simply, a combination of all three?

Whatever the formula, Schumacher says, "We still have work to do. We need to mount a new show at the Nederlander and let people know that Newsies is happening on Broadway. And the important thing is to keep the connection of show and audience — that connection that was present in New Jersey."

Whether Newsies becomes the "King of New York" or follows in the footsteps of the film will be determined by business at the box office. And while he may claim to know nothin', as a producing vet, Schumacher does have a plan: "Unlikely choices lead to failure and sometimes unlikely choices lead to great success. From that, you do tell yourself to surround yourself with great people — and that I've done with Newsies."

(Frank DiLella is a producer for NY-1's "On Stage" program. This piece appears in the March 2012 issue of Playbill magazine.)