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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

NEWSIES in Chicago! A Must See

You know what a "newsie" is, right?  No?  Well, let me explain. 
In the late 1800s, the newsboys were the lifeblood of the newspaper publishing industry. They were the primary distribution system for almost every newspaper and stood on street corners hawking their wares.  Because of their loud screams, they were never well received but they were endured. And they endured with terrible living conditions, and many who were orphans. They were poor. Dirt poor. They usually slept on the streets and often slept right in front of the newspaper offices so they could be the first ones to buy their bundles of papers and get to selling. Thousands of them. No coats, no shoes for many of them, and no education.

In 1898, with the Spanish American War increasing newspaper sales, several publishers raised the cost of a newsboy bundle of 100 newspapers from 50¢ to 60¢, a price increase that at the time was offset by the increased sales. After the war, many papers reduced the cost back to previous levels, with the notable exceptions of the New York World and the New York Morning Journal.

In July 1899, a large number of New York City newsboys refused to distribute the papers of Joseph Pulitzer, publisher of the World, and William Randolph Hearst, publisher of the Journal. The strikers demonstrated across the Brooklyn Bridge for several days, effectively bringing traffic to a standstill, along with the news distribution for most New England cities. They kept others from selling the papers by tearing up the distribution in the streets. The boys also requested from the public that they no longer buy either paper until the strike was settled. Pullitzer tried to hire older men to do the boys' job, but the men understood their stance and wanted no part in defying the boys. Several rallies drew more than 5,000 newsboys, complete with charismatic speeches by strike leader Kid Blink.
So named because he was blind in one eye, Kid Blink (Louis Ballatt) was a popular subject among competing newspapers such as the New York Tribune, who often patronizingly quoted Blink with his heavy Brooklyn accent depicted as an eye dialect, attributing to him such sayings as "Me men is nobul." Blink and his strikers were the subject of violence, as well. Hearst and Pulitzer hired men to break up rallies and protect the newspaper deliveries still underway. During one rally Blink told strikers, "Friens and feller workers. This is a time which tries de hearts of men. Dis is de time when we'se got to stick together like glue.... We know wot we wants and we'll git it even if we is blind." Although the World and the Journal did not lower their 60¢-a-bundle price, they did agree to buy back all unsold papers, and the union disbanded.
This brings us to the Disney movie that was released in 1992.  A wonderful musical movie was produced that starred a young Christian Bale with a cast featuring Ann-Margaret, Robert Duvall, Max Casella, Bill Pullman and David Moscow just to name a few. Based on a book written by Harvey Fierstein.  Names were changed in the movie from the real "heros" of this story.  Music for the movie was written by Alan Menken (of Beauty and the Beast, Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Pocohontas and Hunchback of Notre Dame fame) and lyrics by Jack Feldman. 
On May 16, 2012, Disney announced that Newsies was an open-ended engagement.  The original cast of the Broadway production featured Jeremy Jordan as Jack Kelly, and John Dossett as the newspaper tycoon, Joseph Pulitzer. The musical premiered at the Paper Mill Playhouse in 2011 and made its Broadway debut in 2012. On November 13, 2013, it was reported that the musical will launch a North American tour in October 2014, commencing in Schenectady, NY, prior to an official opening in Philadelphia, PA. During the 2014-15 season, the tour will play 25 cities, over 43 weeks. 

My husband and I were lucky enough to get tickets for the third nights performance in Chicago.  The show is running at the Ford Center for Performing Arts/ Oriental Theater from December 8, to January 4, 2015.  The cast for the tour includes the following:
Dan DeLuca does a stellar job in the lead role of Jack Kelly, Katherine is played by Stephanie Styles and she has a beautiful voice.  Crutchie is brilliantly played by Zachary Sayle, Davey is played by Jacob Kemp and Joseph Pulitzer is played by Steve Blanchard.  
Rounding out the cast were Vincent Crocilla, Josh Assor, Benjamin Cook, Sky Flaherty, Jordan Sauels,DeMaris R. Copes, Julian DeGuzman, Jeff Heimbrock, Jack Sippel, Josh Burrage, Ginna Claire Mason, Angela Grovey, Merideth Inglesby,Michael Ryan, Jon Hacker, John Brady, Mark Aldrich, Bill Bateman,  James Judy, Evan Autio, Chaz Wolcott, Stephen Hernandez, and Kevin Carolan.  A fine job was done by all, and in our humble opinion, the stage show was 10 times better than the movie.  With a bit of a change up in the story line from the movie, there were a ferw surprising moments, and some added music that was absolutely beautiful.  The classic songs Sante Fe, Carrying thee Banner, Seize the Day and King of New York were still here, and done to perfection.  

Dance Captain: Andrew Wilson, Assistant Dance Captain: Johh Assor, and Fight Captain: Kevin Carolan.

We had balcony seats, but there really is no bad seat in this beautiful older theater.  If you have never attended a show at the Oriental, it's a treat. (except for some of the grumpy ushers they have working in the balcony.  We saw Beauty and the Beast here several years ago, and I told my husband that the usher that told he she would take my camera away from me if she saw it, was the same one we ran across this time.    It is a  2,253-seat theater hosting Broadway shows in a renovated historic cinema built in 1926.

Of course, no pictures or video was allowed during the show, but I did capture these pictures before the show started, and at intermission time.

                                        The detail in this place is truly amazing!

If you have the opportunity to see this in Chicago before it leaves in only a couple weeks, please do try, or catch it in a city near you in the coming months.  You will be happy you did.

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