Disney’s “Newsies” Ends on a High Note

Continually Exceeding Expectations

Disney Musical Newsies Broadway ShowThe Disney Theatricals production of Newsies concluded its Broadway run this past Sunday, August 24, 2014.  Unlike the majority of Broadway shows that choose to shutter after consistently earning dangerously low box office sales, Newsies had healthy, if declining, sales upon its decision to conclude the run.  There are many reasons that Disney decided to close early, despite the continual profits.  First of all, Newsies has already exceeded expectations beyond the producers’ wildest dreams.  The musical is based off a 1992 film of the same name which was a major flop at the movie box office, but which managed to gain a cult following in the home video and online markets with musical theater fans.  When Harvey Fierstein wrote the book for the musical adaptation, it was originally intended to play only regionally, at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey.  The intent was to earn profits primarily by licensing the show to amateur and regional houses.  However, when many New York critics who made the trek over the river to see the show gave it stupendously positive reviews, Disney decided to bring it to Broadway.  The show was originally intended only for a 3 month run at the Nederlander Theater, but encouraging box office sales and reviews persuaded the producers to extend for an open-ended run.

A Broadway Success Story

The show ran for two and a half years, totaling 1,004 performances on top of the 16 preview performances.  In this time, it earned overnewsies choreography $100 million at the box office, grossing the first $1 million in only two weeks.  It filled 94% of its seats across the run, and saw an average gross of over $700,000 per week.  With a modest budget of only about $5 million, the show was able to recoup its costs in only nine months.  After beginning previews on March 15, 2012, the show opened on March 29, 2012, and it announced recoupment on December 20, 2012.  In addition, it earned eight 2012 Tony Award nominations, winning two (those for Best Choreography for Christopher Gattelli and Best Original Score for Alan Menken and Jack Feldman).  Though Disney is well-known for its hits such as the long-running The Lion King as well as its newly successful musical adaptation of Aladdin, it has also had significant flops in recent years including The Little Mermaid and Tarzan.  Therefore, the success of Newsies comes with great appreciation for the mega-producer Disney, and it decided to close at a prudent point in the show’s trajectory.

Why Close Now?

Although profits have been relatively healthy in the last few months, they have shown a gradual decline.  Furthermore, Thomas Schumacher (the president of Disney Theatricals) explained that based on the past performance of the company’s shows, he would have expected that Newsies would decline in the last few weeks of summer, and show a significant drop amidst the newly competitive fall season.  To avoid this, they announced closing on June 22, 2014, which allowed the show to pick up steam at the end of its run.  In addition, the show will begin its National Tour in October 2014, and the producers can save hundreds of thousands of dollars by re-appropriating the physical production (sets and costumes) to the touring production.  Furthermore, the show will be long remembered in Broadway history as an unexpected hit, which went out on a high note.  Even though its run was much shorter than many of Disney’s other shows, the run was longer than originally expected, and fans around the country will soon be able to see it in the touring production.

“Newsies” on Broadway Announces Closing in August 2014

Newsies: An Unexpected Closing Decision

Disney Theatricals’ production of Newsies has been running at Broadway’s Nederlander Theatre since March 15, 2015, with its official opening night on March 29, 2014.  For the 2012 Tony Awards, it was nominated for eight awards, winning two: Best Choreography for Christopher Gattelli, and Best Original Score for Alan Menken and Jack Feldman.  With a book by Harvey Fierstein and directed by Jeff Calhoun, this musical was the break-out role for its star Jeremy Jordan, who has gone on to star in the Broadway production of Bonnie & Clyde as well as the film version of The Last 5 Years and the television show SmashNewsies has been performing consistently well at the box office; with a modest budget of $5 million, it has gone on to gross over $100 million for Disney Theatricals.  In recent months, it has been holding up if not knocking it out of the park at the box office, which is why it comes as somewhat of a surprise that the show has just announced its closing date: August 24, 2014.

Disney Musical Newsies Broadway ShowNewsies is based on a 1992 film inspired by the true story of the Newsboys Strike of 1899 in New York City.  That film was much less of a success than this musical has proven to be, as it only earned less than $3 million, with a budget of $15 million.  This film flop therefore ranks as one of Disney’s lowest-earning live action movies of all time.  This goes to show that different elements make for different degrees of success on the stage and on the screen.  With a compelling storyline, this show is renowned for its thrilling choreography, embracing the theatricality of the musical medium.  Furthermore, Harvey Fierstein is not only an industry favorite but a very talented musical book writer, and he did a wonderful job of adapting the story for the stage.

The Disney Theatricals Slate

Though Disney did not disclose its decision-making process, the organization likely felt that the show had been a great enough success to go out with a bang, rather than continue to have it run on sales that could only begin to taper off as time went on.  Whereas the show once regularly earned over a million dollars weekly, its numbers have been significantly lower in recent months.  Furthermore, Disney has several enormous Broadway hits already, the most notable being The Lion King which has been running for 16 years at the top of the gross charts, and the now-closed Beauty and the Beast which ran for 13 years.  Furthermore, the organization has just opened its new show Aladdin this season, and it will soon premiere its stage adaption in London of Shakespeare in Love (a co-production with Sonia Friedman Productions), as well as a revised stage adaptation of The Hunchback of Notre Dame in California’s La Jolla Playhouse this upcoming fall.  Still, not all of Disney’s stage shows have been successes, with notable flops including Tarzan and The Little Mermaid.

newsies choreography

A National Tour, and An Available Nederlander Theatre

Not only does Disney have other shows to focus on, but it never planned for Newsies to run for as long as it did.  The production had its first try-out run at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey, with the intention of focusing the property on licensing, regional, and amateur productions, similar to its High School Musical franchise.  However, when the reception proved to be a success, especially from notable New York theatre critics, the decision was made to transfer to the Nederlander Theatre, but again only for a limited engagement of three months.  Now that the show has played for well over two years, it has far exceeded its original expectations.  Plans are now underway for a national tour to begin in October 2014.  This will now open up the Nederlander Theater for musicals that are vying for a venue, as there are remarkably few available theatres on Broadway for new musicals, though there are many in development.

Newsies Still Packs Them In, a Year After Jeremy Jordan Departed

Newsies Broadway Musical

Newsies Broadway Musical

Encouraged by the New York newsboy strike of 1899, Disney’s cathartic production of Newsies the Musical first premiered at the Paper Mill Playhouse in the fall of 2011, quickly moving on to the Nederlander Theatre on Broadway in the spring of 2012.  Whether it is because the show has been running on Broadway for an extensive period of time or the show wrestles without an attention reeling name like Jeremy Jordan, this Disney musical has not been living up to its full potential this year, compared to the last. (Jeremy Jordan left Newsies on Sept 4 2012 to pursue his dream of TV fame in the musical drama TV series Smash which aired on NBC and ended its 2nd, and final, season on May 26, 2013)

When Newsies first opened on Broadway in the March of 2012, they were averaging 100.8% in ticket sales and were grossing an average of $937,788.92, in comparison to January of 2013. Up until now they have been averaging 95.6% in ticket sales and are grossing an average of $847,072.23, with a 97% of theatre seats sold on average every night.  Looking at this data, there was not a colossal loss, possibly because in the beginnings of this production, people were so anxious about this musical being an adaptation to the popular 1992 film, starring Christian Bale. Compared to the movie, the musical is much longer and more care and precision have been placed into it.

Recasting has always been a difficult task to execute and even though the show has fared critically in monetary terms, Jeremy Jordan’s replacement, Corey Cott, has been fairly up to par. The emotional build up for every number is not nearly as tantamount to what Jeremy set the standards for, but Corey manages to pull off an astounding performance with a voice similar to Jeremy’s, making up for many of the weak moments to the female lead’s, Kara Lindsay’s, singing. Albeit the humorous, witty journalistic jokes and snappy, energetic attitude, Kara lacks this sort of resilience and strength, for the most part; coming off seemingly reserved and as if she is holding herself back, teetering along the lines of the melody and not quite hitting all of her notes. (Maybe this is due to the exhausting eight-shows-a-week schedule.)

Aside from the exciting dance numbers and character developments, there is exceptional use of the limited space on stage. The construction of the set, along with the essence of New York, is captured quite perfectly. A gate at the top of each moving staircase so that they can connect or detach from each other exacerbates the excitement of the chase-run scenes. The backdrop is tastefully modern, displaying shifting scenery or showing words from a typewriter whenever Kara’s character speaks what she is so furiously typing. Any seat in the house could clearly see what was going on, although being in the front few aisles definitely opens up your eyes to the deliberate sweat dripping and spit flying everywhere.

Even though Disney’s target market is for families of all ages, female fans of the Christian Bale movie of the same name, the audience demographic at this show seems to skew to an older, more mature crowd who may find solace in this hopeful musical because of the very pertinent modern day financial and social struggles.

With tattered corduroys and newsboy cap wearing orphan boys selling newspapers, desperate to make a living out on the cutthroat streets of New York, Newsies pulls at the heartstrings, bringing to mind the toil of making a living on Broadway, or simply the everyday strife that everybody trudges through. With no foul language or anything particularly scandalous to worry about, overall, this show is quite uplifting, entertaining, and sublime for families.

New CD To Benefit Broadway Impact

Jeremy Jordan

Jeremy Jordan

A new recording titled Here For You – Ballads For Broadway Impact, featuring the music of Jonathan Reid Gealt, will be released on April 30. The proceeds of the album will benefit Broadway Impact, an organization made up of theater people who support marriage equality.

The CD will feature the talents of many Broadway performers, including Jeremy Jordan (Newsies, TV’s Smash), Kelli O’Hara (Nice Work If You Can Get It), Adrienne Warren (Bring It On), Rachel Potter (Evita), Katie Thompson (Big Fish), and Caissie Levy (Ghost the Musical), as well as The Voice finalist Loren Allred.

Here For You – Ballads for Broadway Impact will be launched with a special concert being held at The Cutting Room on April 29 at 10pm. Tickets are $20 if purchased ahead of time, or $25 at the door. Get tickets by visiting www.thecuttingroomnyc.com or calling 212-691-1900.

More Broadway and Musical Theater Stars Join TV’s Smash

From the beginning, Smash, the NBC TV show about the creation of a Broadway musical, has employed many real-life Broadway stars. Christian Borle (a recent Tony Award winner for his role in Peter and the Starcatcher), Brian d’Arcy James (the man behind the big green costume in Broadway’s Shrek), Will Chase (Rent, Billy Elliot), and Meg Hilty (Wicked) are among the Broadway regulars that have populated the world of Smash, giving it a special air of authenticity for musical theater fans. The recent news that d’Arcy James and Chase won’t be series regular next year, though, made it seem that the show might be chipping away at the genuine Broadway babies.

Theater fans can relax — for now — though, since it appears that Smash is continuing its policy of hiring actual musical theater performers. One of the most recent cast additions in Jeremy Jordan, the break-out star of the 2011-2012 season for his roles in Bonnie & Clyde and Newsies. On Smash, Jordan is set to play a Brooklyn-born singer (perhaps borrowing some of the tough-guy, New York attitude that he is currently showing Broadway audiences in Newsies?).

And now there is news that Jennifer Hudson will be joining Smash. The former American Idol contestant wowed musical theater lovers in 2006 when she played Effie White in the film version of the Broadway hit Dreamgirls. Although Hudson has not actually starred in a Broadway production (her appearances on the Great White Way have been limited to a couple special benefit concerts), she will be playing a Broadway star named Veronica Moore in a multi-episode arc.

With any luck, Smash will be employing even more Broadway and musical theater talents in the future. Given that the TV show films in New York City, it creates the possibility for working Broadway performers to do both theater and television. Of course the extent to which they can do both may depend on how demanding their roles are and what the show’s shooting schedule is like. Jeremy Jordan, for instance, plans to continue playing his part in Newsies while also filming Smash. But Christian Borle, who has a starring role on Smash as a composer, will soon be departing Broadway’s Peter and the Starcatcher to begin filming.