So it's early in the rehearsal process, and I make some comment about this boyish cap Emily has her hair pushed under, I say something about her looking like a turn-of-the-century paperboy. Then she starts busting lyrics like
Try bottle alley or the harbor ...And I'm like, what the hell is that, and she asks, "Ain't you never seen Newsies?" and I'm like, "I am 40 and under what circumstances would I have seen Newsies?" So she starts singing selections from a number of songs from the movie and I am reminded of a night when I was eleven, sleeping over at a friend's house when I shared the entire production of Annie with him in my pajamas (which I realize is a sincerely gay thing to do) and I invite Emily to bring the soundtrack in sometime and we are listening to it while putting together the set at Our Lady of the Elms and she's all defensive about certain songs and I keep telling her to take it easy, I am liking what I am hearing and ask if she has a copy of the movie.
Try Central Park it's guaranteed ...
She says yes, unfortunately it's on VHS and I say, I am over 40, I own a VCR!
Last weekend, my kids and I settle in to watch the entire thing. I can understand two things. 1) Why it became popular enough when broadcast on cable for Disney to stop distancing themselves from it and release it on DVD and 2) why it was one of the bigger flops in Disney history. Em mused why they haven't turned this into one of their Broadway extravaganzas. After all, Tarzan wasn't a huge movie and they went ahead with that. The answers are simple enough to me:
A) It is about boys singing and dancing. Billy Elliott is an exception to this rule because it is about how weird it is that a boy wants to dance.I did find it refreshing in that in spite of its few scenes of violence, there are absolutely no guns at all (this, as early as 1992) and then there is the joy of seeing Christian Bale sing and dance, and not particularly well. Apparently he signed on before they decided to make it a musical (wtf?) and has long derided the film. Ah well. It may not be Sound of Music, but then he is no Christopher Plummer.
B) There are absolutely no strong female characters at all, and you can't make any money on a new musical without them.
C) As the tale of paperboys organizing against unfair wages, it has a strong anti-corporate, pro-labor message.
We were listening to it again today, setting up for the performance at the Northwest Branch of the Akron Public Library. We close tomorrow with a show at Fiorestone High School. I never would have guessed Newsies would become one of my stronger memories from this tour. But you never really get to choose those, do you?