STERLING — What started as a flop movie about 30 years ago has become a major stage phenomenon and is coming to the stage of Sterling College Theatre for the first time. It’s Disney’s Newsies. The musical will be staged this weekend at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Oct. 15,-16 and at 2 p.m. Sunday in Culbertson Auditorium on the campus of Sterling College.
The show centers around the actual historical event of the newsboys strike of 1899 in New York City which propelled a labor movement in the U.S. Newsies is somewhat a “David vs Goliath” story as the young newsboys take on the newspaper tycoon Joseph Pulitzer who is also a character in the musical.
The creation of the musical Newsies parallels the lessons found in the plot of the show. In 1992, Disney released a movie musical based on the Newsboy strike of 1899. It was meant to be a revival of the live-action movie musical, (and starred a young Christian Bale as “Jack”); however, the film wasn’t a hit in theaters, and Disney considered it a failure.
Like Pulitzer, they failed to listen to the “little people” – the fans.
There wasn’t a strong initial audience, however word of mouth spread, and it eventually found its audience primarily through home video and DVD sales. Schools and youth theatre groups began producing illegal versions of the show and begged Disney for a Broadway version.
Despite having to shut down many productions a year, Disney felt the initial failure of the movie meant there wasn’t money in a live theater production. The major Hollywood studio finally acquiesced and created a stage version, which they initially thought would run for a mere four weeks at a regional theater in New Jersey. The buzz was immediate. “Fansies” bought out the initial run nearly immediately and Disney knew they might have something. The show was a critical and fan success and it soon moved to Broadway where it ran for over 1,000 performances. The stage version has toured the world and produced many professional versions and has become one of the most popular stage titles for school and community theatres.
“I had no idea what the show was when I went to see the national tour in Kansas City with my family,” said Luke Harding, Sterling College sophomore who is playing the central role of Jack Kelly. “As a seventh grader I wasn’t even that excited to see the show. Once it started, my attention had been won. I don’t think I blinked the entire time that the show was happening! The Newsies Broadway Cast album was all I listened to for a while. And when I was leaving that theater, I knew that Jack Kelly was the #1 part that I wanted to play someday. Now, here I am!”
Harding said, “I think the message of Newsies is to stand up for what you believe in. The Newsies believe they are being cheated, so they stand up for themselves and feel that everyone should be treated as equals. It’s also about sticking together. Jack learns this lesson firsthand and realizes that his family and the people whom he truly loves to need his help.”
One of the most popular songs in the show is “Santa Fe.” The power ballad sung by leading character Jack Kelly is a song of yearning to get out of the life he is living by escaping to the western mecca. Jack and the other characters come to realize some of the incredible blessings in their current lives.
“The music is very good and super catchy, and the camaraderie between the newsies is really fun to watch. People love seeing that group dynamic on stage. With all the high-energy choreography and belting out the big songs – it’s just a fun, powerful show that everyone should enjoy. I certainly do,” Harding said.
Tickets to the Sterling College Theatre production of Disney’s Newsies are $15 for adults and $5 for students and are available online at sterling-college.ticketleap.com or at the door before each performance.