Now normally I don’t write about musicals. Primarily, I dedicate this blog to writing reviews for movies and music albums, but I also believe a stage musical is a small but essential medium as well. Take Wicked or In the Heights, for instance. Both critically acclaimed plays take part in the framework of pop culture, as well as the awe-inspiring wonder of visual and euphonic performances. Musicals not only astound audiences with great acting, marvelous power ballads, and flamboyant costumes, but make audiences want to see more in the end. That’s why I’ve decided, whenever I see a play, be it weeks or months from now, I will also be writing musical reviews.
I got the pleasure to travel to New York recently and a chance to experience some of the Big Apple’s greatest places, including Broadway. One of the newest musical productions, which I saw, was Newsies, a period musical adapted from the 1992 commercial flop film starring Christian Bale and Robert Duvall. Although Newsies didn’t perform well with audiences and critics as a movie, the play seemed to exhibit the opposite, according its highly praised reviews and many Tony nominations. However, after seeing the play myself, I begged to differ. Newsies had its moments, but overall it was brought down by a hackneyed script, cheesy romance, and overplayed musical numbers. The premise is loosely based on the real-life 1899 Newsboys Strike in New York City. The story centered on a group of homeless and orphaned newsboys, who sought out to fight against the added cost in selling newspapers. This raise in price was prompted by a stubborn newspaper tycoon, Joseph Pulitzer. The leader of the boys, Jack Kelly, attempts to spread the word about the strike, while desiring to move to Sante Fe to escape from the cruel and dumpy New York City. Jack and the newsboys get some help from a local vaudeville star and an ambitious journalist named Katherine, whom Jack falls for.
Newsies could have easily just been a simple non-musical play adapted from a non-musical film, but it wasn’t. Though, it’s hard to determine whether or not the singing and dancing could have worked for either. In the Broadway play, the singing was adequate but faulty and the choreography was superb but felt forced and exaggerated. The chemistry between Katherine and Jack was fitting, but Jack’s expression of love towards her, and vice versa, is completely clichéd and has Disney written all over it. The play itself is slightly tedious, but its lively performances make up for it. The thing that felt wrong about Newsies is that it didn’t pop out to me, nor did it have a single moment of awe or effective inspiration. I could see why now Newsies hadn’t been so successful as a film.