The Newsies Strike of 1899: Still making headlines

Summer H.-Abernathy, Columnist

“Newsies: The Musical” hit the Broadway stage in 2011 and Netflix in 2017, and throughout those years, young fans across the country have been cheering for their favorite newsboy rebels.

Disney’s hit musical, which was based on their 1992 film by the same name, which was based on the Newsboys Strike of 1899, was targeted to an audience of teenagers and preteens, which shows in the energy of the audience. Where usually, a Broadway audience is full of fervent clapping and maybe a few whistles, this was all the screaming of a boy band concert.

But where boy bands are perceived to be shallow imitations of performance art, even the youngest and most inexperienced performers in “Newsies” brought all the talent and flair of a seasoned professional.

And they needed to with their songs and choreography, which were so intricately written and designed that Alan Menken and Jack Feldman, creators of the score, and Christopher Gattelli, choreographer, won the Tony Awards for their respective categories.

Although, all the spectacle in the world could not get this musical to Broadway if there was not a solid story behind it.

The musical showcases the newsies, who are a group of poor children, most of whom lived on the streets of New York in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and whose only income comes from buying newspapers for a low price and reselling them to the public. Working conditions are poor, but Joseph Pulitzer, played by John Dossett, owner of The World, makes them worse when he raises the newsies’ price to fatten his own pockets, knowing what it would do to their already destitute lives.

But one factor that Pulitzer does not count on his daughter Katherine, played by Kara Lindsay, who is trying to break her way into the journalistic world without the help of her father. She sides with the newsies’ strike against this price raise so that The Sun will finally give her a chance to report news, instead of having to review vaudeville acts. And from there, the rest is history.

Lindsay and Jeremy Jordan, who plays Jack Kelly, the leader of the newsies, both have the vocal ranges to topple broadway, but my one qualm with this musical is that the two were forced into a romantic subplot that may have damped the effect of the themes.

Yes, young people can do anything they put their minds to, and yes, a woman can do anything a man can do, but Katherine’s willingness to go wherever the wind might take Kelly, takes away from her struggle as a woman in what was “man’s work.”

However, for a target audience of young Disney fans, this musical did great work in teaching children that just because an adult does something does not make it right. Themes along this line in the script were well-performed, and deserved all the teenage screams they received.