Throughout its history, Disney's Newsies has defied the odds. This 1992 movie-musical flopped at the box office, but retained a cult following. A stage musical adaptation, which reunited the movie's original composers Alan Menken and Jack Feldman, premiered in 2011 at New Jersey's Paper Mill Playhouse, where it was intended to play a brief run with relative unknowns Jeremy Jordan, Kara Lindsay, Andrew Keenan-Bolger, and Ben Fankhauser in the cast.
But in a front-page-worthy twist of fate, Broadway came a-calling. Newsies, with a script by Harvey Fierstein, old and new songs by Menken and Feldman, direction by Jeff Calhoun, and acrobatic choreography by Christopher Gattelli, moved to the Nederlander Theatre in March 2012. It closed in 2014 after more than 1,000 performances, Tony Awards for Menken, Feldman, and Gattelli, and A-list status on Broadway for its stars. A national tour followed.
Now, creating headlines yet again, Newsies is heading back to the big screen. Filmed live in September 2016 at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre, Newsies: The Broadway Musical reunites its four leading players and supersizes its ensemble, playing select cinemas February 16, 18, and 22. On their first day of rehearsal last summer, we spoke to Keenan-Bolger and Lindsay to discuss the show's impact and what the fansies can expect.
When did you find out that Newsies was going to be filmed and that you were going to be in it?
Andrew Keenan-Bolger: I actually found out about it the day that Tuck Everlasting posted its closing notice. It was such a sad day, and Ben Cook, who was in the show with me, came up to me and was like, "Have you heard they're doing a filmed version of Newsies?" It took such a sad day and put a whole new twist on it with the possibility that I would get to reunite with this piece.
Kara Lindsay: I was in Argentina and I was teaching with Robin De Jesús and Alicia Albright, both of whom I did Wicked with. I had a bunch of e-mails from my agent saying, "I know you're in Argentina, but call me." I eventually was able to call him via Skype and he told me about the news and I was screaming in a Starbucks in Argentina.
What is it like to get to revisit your characters?
Andrew: Every actor dreams of getting a second chance to reprise a role. The second a show closes, all these little light bulbs start popping in your head of choices you wished you would have made, or little character traits you discovered after the fact. To get to have a whole life's experience pass in the past four years and to look at this character with new eyes is exciting.
Kara: We didn't think this show was going to come to Broadway after Paper Mill. We didn't anticipate a movie at all and now here we are. When I think that it can't get better, it only gets better and better. We're a family and to get to do this with my family is a dream.
Did the words and the moves come back to you right away?
Kara: Some of it came back, and others, it's like "one-two-three…five? Nope, can't even count." [laughs]
Andrew: Some things did. Some things it was like looking at the music for the first time. They were like, "What harmony line did you sing?" And I would have to play it through in my head. A lot of times it was a big shoulder shrug.
Kara: We've had three stabs at this. No pressure. Better know it by now.
What is your message to the Fansies as they get ready to see the movie?
Andrew: Fansies, get ready. This is Newsies times ten. There are going to be more newsies, more tricks, more flipping, higher singing, and it's going to be in high definition.
Kara: It's 1899 in the show, but we are still dealing with standing up for injustice and having your voice be heard in a world where you think that can't happen. I hope they still see that message that's so beautiful and near and dear to our hearts.
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