Friday, December 21, 2012

Disney's 'Newsies' recovered its capitalization faster than any Broadway production in Disney Theatrical's history.

NEW YORK -- Odd as it seems to apply the definition "the little show that could" to an entry from a Broadway titan like Disney Theatrical Productions, that's essentially the story of Newsies.

While Newsies is a modestly budgeted production compared to those more elaborate spectacles, it's worth noting that the musical is playing at the Nederlander Theatre, a Broadway house roughly one third smaller than those where other Disney shows have opened. And unlike Disney's other stage successes, Newsies does not have the benefit of a universally beloved hit-movie brand, recognizable to both domestic and international tourist audiences.

After the commercial disappointments of Tarzan and The Little Mermaid on Broadway, the success of Newsies has been an interesting phenomenon.

Adapted by Harvey Fierstein, with a score by Alan Menken and lyrics by Jack Feldman, expanded from the film's handful of songs, the show is a fictionalized account of the New York City newsboy strike of 1899. A scrappy band of orphans and runaways goes up against Pulitzer, Hearst and the other media giants of the day for a fair distribution deal.

Opening in the wake of the Occupy Wall Street movement and heightened national awareness of income disparity issues, the crowd-pleasing show has struck a chord. Audience affection also has been boosted by the rabid fan base that built around the Kenny Ortega movie in Disney Channel showings during the years since its failed theatrical release.

"We are thrilled that Broadway audiences have embraced the show as they have," said Thomas Schumacher, producer and president of Disney Theatrical Productions. "It’s a testament to the power of this story of young people uniting to fight for what’s right. We believed deeply in the show, but a year ago, we really didn't see this coming so quickly."

While Disney Theatrical conceived the stage version as a licensing property for regional and amateur productions, response to its premiere  in fall 2011 at New Jersey's Paper Mill Playhouse was so buoyant that the division opted to bring it to Broadway for a limited 13-week engagement. Early box office following the March 29 opening prompted an immediate extension of that initial run, which was then switched to an open-ended engagement in May.

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