In a time of whiz-bang blockbusters, it’s wonderful to see a piece of theatre or a film start out slowly and then gain speed as audiences embrace it. The charming Woody Allen movie Midnight in Paris began this way and managed to have a surprisingly long run because it touched moviegoers’ hearts and fancies.
Just recently, Newsies, a musical that began with little fanfare has begun to attract attention. It’s based on a true story about a bunch of beleaguered newsboys who launched a strike against the publishing giant Joseph Pulitzer in 1899. The Disney backed show opened at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey and garnered some great reviews and lots of buzz.
After working out the show’s kinks out-of-town, Disney announced that it would play a limited engagement on Broadway. Now this run has been extended — and backers are hoping for a big hit and a long stay. Some critics believe it might even capture this year’s Best Musical award.
What does Newsies have going for it? It’s family friendly and its cast, though not of super-star status, is energetic and winsome. It has sprightly lyrics and music, and a snappy book by Harvey Fierstein. But most of all, it has heart: it’s a David vs. Goliath story about how a bunch of underdogs banded together and fought injustice. That’s a timeless theme if ever there was one!
It’s always so heartening to see a creative endeavor that goes about the business of developing itself quietly and confidently, without a lot of fanfare — and then suddenly catches fire. Even in today’s slick, artfully managed multimedia blitzing world, audiences still matter. And that’s good news, not just for Newsies, but for us as well. Write on.