Harvey Fierstein Is Librettist for Newsies Musical, With Songs by Menken and Feldman
By Kenneth Jones
Academy Award-winning composer Alan Menken confirmed to Playbill.com that Tony Award winner Harvey Fierstein is writing a libretto for a stage version of "Newsies," the 1992 live-action Disney movie musical about New York City paperboys in 1899.
The collaboration between writer Fierstein (La Cage aux Folles, Torch Song Trilogy), composer Menken (Beauty and the Beast, Leap of Faith, Sister Act, The Little Mermaid) and lyricist Jack Feldman had been reported by other publications in late 2009.
Directed by Kenny Ortega, the picture about newspaper competition and the use of scrappy, hard-edged delivery boys (who sang and danced) did not exactly catch fire at the box office, but in the current era of teen-centered hits like "Glee" and "High School Musical," maybe the time has come for the youthful brio of Newsies.
Menken told Playbill.com, "Yeah, it is in development. What it's going to be is — honestly, right now — undetermined. I think Disney is still trying to decide whether it's a first-class production or whether it's stock and amateur. But there will be available a stage musical of Newsies. That's all I can say. I've been writing it with Harvey Fierstein and Jack Feldman. [How it emerges is] just gonna be [a] business decision of how Disney wants to proceed with it. But yes, we are developing it."
Menken said he and Feldman have expanded the "Newsies" score for the stage. It features "a lot of new songs." He added, "We're having a very successful collaboration. We're all having a great time. We already had a 29-hour reading…in May. I don't think Disney knows yet what it's going to be." (Disney has no comment at this time.)
With a screenplay by Bob Tzudiker and Noni White, "Newsies," released in April 1992, concerned a strike by newsboys, who are angry that newspaper owners are raising distribution prices. At the film's center was Jack "Cowboy" Kelly, played by Christian Bale. The cast also included David Moscow, Max Casella, Aaron Lohr, Luke Edwards, Bill Pullman, Ann-Margret, Jeffrey DeMunn, Kevin Tighe and Robert Duvall (as publisher Joseph Pulitzer).
The film score included the Menken-Feldman songs "Seize the Day," "Once and for All," "The World Will Know," "High Times, Hard Times," "Carrying the Banner," "King of New York," "Carrying the Banner," "Santa Fe," "My Lovey-Dovey Baby" and more.
In 2003, Playbill.com reported that "Newsies" was on track to be developed as a licensable stage musical, potentially for school theatre productions and beyond.
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