As 7 PM approached on Aug. 14, Newsies swarmed 8th Avenue as they made their way to 54th Street, where they would Stop the Presses at 54 Below a week before their final performance at Broadway's Nederlander. Inside, the "fansies" (as they proudly dubbed themselves three years ago, when the musical premiered at New Jersey's Paper Mill Playhouse) prepared to greet their favorite newsboys and jotted down questions for the Newsies Q&A portion of the evening.
Over 30 current and former cast members from the Broadway musical filtered into the bar area at 54 Below and, as the lights dimmed, took the stage for a full-cast opening number, "High Times, Hard Times," a song penned by Alan Menken and Jack Feldman for the 1992 film of the same name that was not utilized in the Broadway staging.
Feldman, the Tony-winning lyricist of the Broadway musical, watched from the back booth of 54 Below. He sat next to Harvey Fierstein, the musical's Tony-nominated book writer — who was sporting a bright pink tie and a smile from ear to ear — and Thomas Schumacher, Disney Theatrical Productions president and producer.
The evening was a celebration of the little-musical-that-could. Original cast members Andrew Keenan-Bolger (Crutchie) and Ryan Steele (Specs) hosted Stop the Presses and explained that the concert functioned as a sendoff to the Tony-nominated Best Musical, which played for over two years on Broadway. (The musical was given life at Paper Mill, only intended to become a licensable property for school, stock and amateur markets, before transferring to Broadway for a 101-performance engagement. When it closes, Newsies will have played 1,005 performances.) The evening, which did not include a single song from the stage production, celebrated the individual talents of the cast. Jess LeProtto was up first and performed Billy Joel's "New York State of Mind." The girls of Newsies (who call themselves the "Girlsies"), Laurie Veldheer, Molly Jobe and Julie Reiber, finally took the spotlight with "Diva's Lament" from Spamalot — a moment to upstage the boy-heavy chorus.
Although Kara Lindsay, the musical's original leading lady, Katherine Plumber, and her Tony Award-nominated co-star Jeremy Jordan, the show's fearless Jack Kelly, weren't in attendance at Stop the Presses, they made cameos via video message and pictures that were displayed on the 54 Below television screens. (Lindsay is currently on tour with Wicked, where she stars as Glinda, and Jordan is headlining the Broadway-bound Finding Neverland at A.R.T.)
The two tweeted remotely:
“ @JeremyMJordan: Looking at all these Newsies pics from 54 below is making me very sad I'm stuck in MA.” Me too! Except I'm in Canada!! :(
The evening continued with tap numbers — including a trio featuring original cast member Evan Kasprzak and " twinsies" Jacob Guzman and David Guzman performing to an original acoustic tune by (a very pregnant) Julie Foldesi — and a quartet of the younger newsies, Lewis Grosso, Jake Lucas, Luca Padovan and Matthew Schechter, singing a heartfelt version of Green Day's "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)."
Interspersed throughout the evening was " Newsies Q&A," in which audience-asked questions were presented to the newsboys by hosts Keenan-Bolger and Steele. Audiences at the 7 PM show learned that if Jack Scott could cast himself in a Disney movie, he would play Simba in "The Lion King"; Michael Fatica's favorite Schmakery's cookie is the Green Tea cookie (because it's obviously a healthy choice); Tommy Bracco would play Medda Larkin if he could choose another role in Newsies; Corey Cott's worst stage-door experience was when he was kissed on the mouth by a 40-year-old woman; and Harvey Fierstein jokingly said he was in talks with Dreamworks for a movie remake.
Stripped-down, original songs were performed by Jack Scott, Iain Young and Daniel Quadrino, who offered a heartbreaking and colorful performance of "Let's Not Waste." (Check out his version on YouTube here.) And, Newsies duets were performed by childhood friends Tommy Bracco and Molly Jobe ("Love Is an Open Door" from "Frozen") and Corey Cott and Ben Fankhauser ("What You Own" from Rent).
Cott and Fankhauser explained that before being reunited in Newsies, they played opposite each other in a local production of Rent. (Read more about that in the Playbill.com Leading Men column with Cott.) "What You Own" was a highlight of the evening — Fankhauser accompanied the duo on piano, and the two brought fans to their feet.
The evening concluded with "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday," and the Newsies stuck around outside of 54 Below to greet fans, take pictures and chat about the latest headlines before the show passes out its final "papes."
(Playbill.com staff writer Michael Gioia's work appears in the news, feature and video sections of Playbill.com as well as in the pages of Playbill magazine. Follow him on Twitter at @PlaybillMichael.)