This year’s 2014-15 HCA/TriStar Health Broadway at TPAC season has been an endless stream of wins for Nashville theatre-goers. For the series’ seventh and final show this season, the Tennessee Performing Arts Center will be hosting the Nashville debut of Disney Theatrical Productions’ Tony Award-winning smash hit musical, Newsies. As part of its tour, the show will play in a limited, one-week engagement at TPAC’s Andrew Jackson Hall, May 26-31.

So what is a “newsy”? The distribution of newspapers by vendors, who buy copies wholesale and sell at cover price, has reemerged in Nashville as an occupation to assist the homeless. But The Contributor didn’t invent this distribution model. Back in the day, the news was big business, and it was cut-throat. And those papers didn’t sell themselves: newsboys, poor youths who sold papers by calling out catchy headlines in the streets, did.

Newsies, a musical film released by Disney in 1992, was inspired by history. Unlike The Contributor, which exists to give its distributors a way to work themselves out of the cycle of extreme poverty, the papers run by media titans exploited youth trapped in poverty to maximize distribution while minimizing costs. So when industry leaders cut into the already meager profits the newsboys were making by raising the wholesale prices to its distributors, they sparked the ‘Newsboy Strike of 1899.’ Led by newsboy Kid Blink, a band of orphan and runaway newsies embarked on a two-week-long protest against the actions of Joseph Pulitzer, William Randolph Hearst, and other powerful newspaper publishers.

In the Disney story, Newsies which is set in New York City at the turn of the century, we are presented the inspiring and uplifting, but definitely sanitized, tale of Jack Kelly, a charismatic newsboy and leader of a ragged band of teenaged ‘newsies,’ who dreams only of a better life far from the hardship of the streets. As in the historical event, it is the raising of distribution prices at the newsboys’ expense by publishing titans Pulitzer and Hearst which prompts Jack to become a leader in the fight for the rights of the newsies, whom he rallies, inspiring a city.

Indubitably, Newsies enjoyed an inglorious beginning. The film was one of Disney’s lowest-grossing live-action films and was nominated for Worst Film by both the Stinkers Bad Movie Awards and the Golden Raspberry Awards (“Hard Times, Hard Times” won a Golden Raspberry for Worst Original Song). And yet, Newsies has enjoyed remarkable popularity and a growing following, especially since its release on DVD. According to TPAC, this cult phenomenon “for years had been the single most requested title of all the Disney musical films not yet adapted for the stage.”

But even haters of the film might want to consider putting their preconceptions aside and give the stage musical a fresh opportunity to impress. The stage show omits some songs from the movie, but retains most fan favorites, including “Carrying the Banner,” “Seize the Day,” “King of New York,” and “Santa Fe.” The show also introduces seven brand-new songs by the original team of Alan Menken and Jack Feldman. Notably, the book for the musical was written by four-time Tony Award winner Harvey Fierstein, who also wrote the book for Kinky Boots, among others.

When it opened on Broadway on March 29, 2012, Newsies was scheduled for a Broadway run of only 101 performances. A base of fiercely devoted fans, however; propelled the show to an extraordinary 1,005 performance run. During that run, more than one million people attended the show, which grossed over $100 million. By comparison, the 1992 film had a domestic box-office gross of less than $3 million. The stage show broke house records at the Nederlander Theatre and became the highest-grossing show from the 2011-12 Broadway season. It also received 23 major theatrical nominations, including eight Tony Award nominations, and won Tony, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle Awards for Score and Choreography.

The entire Newsies creative team—including its director, Tony nominee Jeff Calhoun, and choreographer Christopher Gattelli, who won a 2012 Tony Award for his work on the show—has reunited to bring the break-out hit musical to audiences across North America.

“This season has been filled with Tony Award-winning shows, and introducing Nashville to the inspirational production of Newsies is the perfect way to close our year of top-notch Broadway entertainment,” said Kathleen O’Brien, TPAC president and chief executive officer. “This show comes to us straight from Broadway during its very first national tour, and it has the high-energy that all of Disney’s productions bring, from high-energy choreography to fantastic songs. With the storyline of the little guy trying to beat big odds, everyone in the family will enjoy this show.”

For information on this and other TPAC shows, visit TPAC.org. Tickets are available for purchase online, or by phone at (615) 782-4040 and at the TPAC Box Office. More information about the Newsies tour can be found at NewsiesTheMusical.com/Tour, Facebook.com/Newsies, and Twitter.com/Newsies.

 

 

 

 

Photo courtesy of Red Bull

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Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville

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