Thursday, November 19, 2015

Broadway Buzz: Fun Facts About Disney's Newsies

©Disney.  Photo by Deen van Meer.
THE HISTORY
  • Newsies is inspired by the real-life “Newsboy Strike of 1899,” which began when newspaper publishers raised the price for newsies, charging a dime more per hundred papers.  
  • The strike was led by a charismatic young newsboy Kid Blink, who rallied orphan and runaway newsies on a two-week-long action against Pulitzer, Hearst and other powerful newspaper publishers.
  • Pulitzer did finally concede and agree to the exact deal that Harvey Fierstein’s book dramatizes.  As a result, not only were the boys considerably better off, it was in many ways the beginning of child labor movement.  

FROM BIG SCREEN TO BROADWAY
  • Based on the book Children of the City by David Nasaw.
  • Two screenwriters Bob Tzudicker and Noni White (Tarzan, 101 Dalmatians, The Hunchback of Notre Dame) fictionalized this story as a non-musical screenplay, which eventually turned into the film musical released in 1992.
  • Newsies was the most requested MTI title of any Disney film musical not yet adapted to the stage.
  • Though intended only as a pilot production before the title was licensed for regional, professional and amateur productions, Newsies’ Paper Mill Playhouse run engendered extraordinary interest from the media and public alike, sparking the transfer to Broadway.
  • Composer Alan Menken and lyricist Jack Feldman wrote six entirely new numbers for the stage, while keeping many of the beloved songs from the film. New songs include:
  • ‘The Bottom Line’ for Joseph Pulitzer
  • ‘That’s Rich’ and ‘Don’t Come A-Knocking’ for performers at Medda Larkin’s Bowery theatre
  • ‘Watch What Happens’ for Katherine, the reporter who first tells the newsies’ story to the world
  • ‘Brooklyn’s Here’ for the newsies who join in the struggle
  • ‘Something to Believe In’ for Jack and Katherine.
  • While Harvey Fierstein’s book keeps much of the movie’s plot, he realized that every good musical needs a great love story. Fierstein created a wholly new character, who serves as both a crusading reporter for the newsies and a love interest for the leading man.
  • The Broadway production was originally scheduled for limited 12-week run of 105 performances, however, due to popular demand, Newsies went on to run for 1,005 performances or two and half years.

AWARDS
Newsies was nominated for 23 major theatrical awards, and won:  
  • 2012 Tony® Award Best Choreography – Christopher Gattelli
  • 2012 Tony® Award Best Original Score – Alan Menken & Jack Feldman
  • 2012 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Choreography – Christopher Gattelli
  • 2012 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Music – Alan Menken
  • 2012 Outer Critics Circle Award Outstanding Choreography -- Christopher Gattelli
  • 2012 Outer Critics Circle Award Outstanding New Score – Alan Menken

NEWSIES’ FANSIES
  • Newsies has a large group of dedicated fans, called Fansies, whose enthusiasm helped push the show to Broadway.
  • When the Broadway engagement of Newsies was announced, chatter on Twitter reached 14 million people
  • The official Newsies Facebook page reached 100,000 fans before the show opened on Broadway.

CHOREOGRAPHY
  • Christopher Gattelli’s Tony® award winning choreography steals the show each night with 31 backflips, and countless spins, leaps and tap steps.

SEIZE THE DAY
  • The 16 newspapers that feature in the dance break are torn in advance to separate down the middle easily and consistently.
  • 42 sheets of paper are danced on or torn during the riot sequence each night. These single-use sheets are either recycled or given to audience members during the performance.

KING OF NEW YORK
  • The Newsies’ newsboys each have two pairs of identical shoes—one for the majority of the performance, and a pair for this number with taps attached.
  • There are five microphones lining the edge of the stage, with three additional microphones attached to the Deli tables, so that all of the tap dancing is heard.

NEWSPAPERS
  • The antique Chandler & Price printing press used in the show was manufactured in the early 1900s and is 1200lbs of solid steel.  It is fully capable of printing, and an expert printer, who specializes in vintage machines, was brought in to train staff and actors in its intricate workings.  
  • There are approximately 150 newspapers used every performance, specifically printed with the headline “Trolley Strike Enters Third Week.”  These papers are carefully cared for, to avoid tearing, so they can be used for multiple performances.
  • The 11 newspaper bundles at the newsstand and in the fight scene are foam-filled with a paper outer layer, to avoid injury and reduce the amount of paper used in the show.
  • The 18 “Newsie Banner” bundles are composed of 300 pages of legal paper glued together and covered with contact paper to avoid tearing as they are tossed around the stage.

COSTUMES
  • Jess Goldstein has designed 150 costumes to evoke the NYC populace of 1899, from the poorest newsies to the richest publishing titan.
  • The actor with the most costume changes plays seven characters, including a cop, Nunzio the barber, a photographer and Governor Roosevelt.
  • The fastest full-body quick change is the character of Darcy switching to the Newsies character Jo Jo during “Carrying the Banner.” The change is 56 seconds and requires two dressers to assist.

SET
  • Tobin Ost’s imposing three level set rises over 24 feet high and features three completely automated towers. Built of steel and aluminum, it weighs seven and a half tons.
  • Separately or in unison, its three towers can move 14 feet up and down stage, revolve 350 degrees and re-configure to create – among the show’s many locations – tenement fire escapes, a theatre’s backstage and the Brooklyn Bridge.  
  • The cast climbs 75 steps to reach the set’s nine distinct playing areas.
  • The three towers move 40 times, traveling a cumulative 676.5 feet per performance, or more than 47 miles a year.

LIGHTING AND PROJECTION
  • Jeff Croiter’s constantly shifting lighting design uses a total of 672 instruments (304 conventional lights, 51 moving lights and 328 LED fixtures) to create a total of 468 lighting cues.
  • Sven Ortel’s projections (adapted by Daniel Brodie) create 12 projected looks throughout the show, with two projectors operating simultaneously to create a brighter image.
  • Using cutting edge technology, the projections are able to appear and disappear with the retractable projection screens, as well as maintain a steady image as the towers travel around the stage.

PRODUCTION STAFF
On tour, there are 175 people directly involved with the show in each city:
  • 33 Cast members – including 5 “swings”
  • 3 Stage Managers
  • 2 Company Managers
  • 11 Musicians – 6 touring; 6 local
  • 1 Conductor
  • Road crew:
  • 4 Carpenters – Head Carp, Automation, Fly, Deck
  • 2 Props
  • 3 Electricians – Head/Board Op, Deck/Projections, Lead Spot Op
  • 2 Sound
  • 1 Wardrobe
  • 1 Hair/Makeup
  • Local crew: 60 people for the load-in and nearly 70 for the load-out in each city
  • For the running of the show: 2 Deck Carpenters, 3 Fly Carpenters, 2 Props, 4 Electricians (2 Deck, 2 Spot Ops), 2 Sound, 7 Wardrobe, 1 Hair/Makeup

Newsies – North American Tour Fun Facts (October 18, 2014)

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