ABOUT THE MUSICAL

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Newsies: The Musical is a musical based on the 1992 musical film Newsies, which in turn was inspired by the real-life Newsboys Strike of 1899 in New York City. The show has music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Jack Feldman, and a book by Harvey Fierstein based on film's screenplay by Bob Tzudiker and Noni White. The musical premiered at the Paper Mill Playhouse in 2011 and made its Broadway debut in 2012, where it played for more than 1,000 performances before touring.

It's New York City, 1899. Jack Kelly and his ragtag team of newsboys make a meager living selling newspapers on the city streets. But when the prices of “papes” are hiked and the newsies are hung out to dry, there is nothing left to do but “open the gates and seize the day!” Led by charismatic Jack and independent, young newspaper reporter Katherine Plummer, the Newsies form a union and organize a strike against the greedy publisher of the New York World. Can a group of idealistic newsboys win against a foe as powerful as acclaimed publisher Joseph Pulitzer? Inspired by the true story of the 1899 Newsboys Strike, Newsies is an ebullient, joyful, and entertaining musical capturing the strength that young people have when they join together and stand up against injustice. With a funny, poignant book and stunning music -- including the show-stopping "Seize the Day," power ballad “Santa Fe” and lovely new songs like Katherine’s “Watch What Happens -- Newsies is a classic with the power to inspire.


 

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CASTING: 

Cast Size: Large (21 or more performers)

Cast Type: Ensemble Cast

Dialect: Students who watch the movie or listen to the Broadway soundtrack will notice that many characters speak with New York accents. 

Actors are encouraged to prepare a NY accent for auditions, but it is not required. Because the characters in the story can be portrayed as coming from a variety of places in America and beyond, we will decide on each character’s “voice” (including accent) once the roles are cast.

That said, please do consider a character's education/upbringing/class when deciding how to voice them, because that will definitely affect the way that they speak (grammar, articulation, etc)!

IN REGARDS TO GENDER: You will notice that many roles are listed as “male." The lead roles in this show are overwhelmingly male characters, because this story is based on an actual historical event, and nearly all newsies were male. We will likely be costuming all newsies as “boys,” but most roles in the show are available for performers of any gender.

Generally, we at ACT-1 are open to gender-blind and re-gendered casting. You should audition for the roles you are attracted to, but please choose roles that best reflect your talents and your natural vocal range. Just because you like a role doesn't mean you are suited for it, and you want to have the strongest audition possible! Read the character descriptions and requirements below.

CHARACTER BREAKDOWNS

NEWSIES:

Jack Kelly 

Character's Gender: Male

Character's Age: 16 to 20

The charismatic leader of the Manhattan newsies, is an orphaned dreamer and artist who yearns to get out of the crowded streets of New York and make a better life for himself out West. Fiercely protective of his best friend, Crutchie, and strongly loyal, Jack isn’t afraid to use his voice to attain better conditions for the working kids of New York City. Though living on the streets has given him a tough-guy exterior, Jack has a big heart and can demonstrate a sweet vulnerability – especially when it comes to bantering with a certain female reporter. A street-smart kid with a dark, artistic soul right beneath the bluster; not a blowhard.

Must have a great pop tenor voice and sense of physicality.

Sings solo, many lines, some dancing, stage combat.

Tenor: 

Vocal range top: A4

Vocal range bottom: Bb2

Davey

Character's Gender: Male

Character's Age: 15 to 20

Les’s straight-laced, bright big brother starts selling newspapers to help his family earn a living, but becomes swept up in the fervor of the strike. A leader in his own right who is learning to use his voice to uplift others, Davey is the brains of the resistance. A thinker; raised in a home as opposed to the other Newsies, Davey is the book-smart counterpoint to the other boys; the voice of reason; a nice Jewish boy.

Must have a great contemporary tenor voice.

Sings solo, many lines, some dance.

Tenor:

Vocal range top: A4

Vocal range bottom: D3

Crutchie

Character's Gender: Male

Character's Age: 13 to 17

A dedicated newsie with a bum leg that’s painful, but helps sell more papes. Though he walks with the assistance of a crutch due to a bad leg, Crutchie doesn’t let it define him; when in a jam, Jack Kelly’s best friend relies on a goofy- sweet sense of humor and optimistic resilience. Crutchie is the heart of the resistance. Right in the middle of any mischief; a real charmer.

The performer in this role must be able to dance enthusiastically in character while still physically portraying Crutchie’s “bum” leg.

Sings solo, many lines, character dancing feature, stage combat.

Tenor:

Vocal range top: A4

Vocal range bottom: C3

Les

Character's Gender: Male

Character's Age: 7-10

Davey’s cheeky younger brother, is inspired by the freedom of the newsies and loves their independent lifestyle. A precocious and natural newsie, Les is an intuitive salesboy and a pint-sized charmer.

He should read as much younger than the other newsies.

Sings solo, many lines, featured dancer.

Tenor:

Vocal range top: Bb3

Vocal range bottom: Db3

OTHER NEWSIES:

Character's Gender: Mostly Male

Character's Ages: 13 to 20

The core group of newsies who work the same neighborhoods as Jack, Crutchie, Davey, and Les, these hard-working kids function as a family that cares for and helps one another. Many of them are orphans, have families outside of NY who they send their money to, or have such poor families that they can’t live at home, so they become “roommates” with the other newsies as well as close friends.

There are 12+ newsies in Jack’s “Gang”:

 Albert, Buttons, Elmer, Finch, Henry, Jo Jo, Mush, Race, Romeo, Specs, and Tommy Boy. We may combine certain characters or add more. 

Performers in these roles must create unique and specific characters with physical and vocal details that distinguish them from the other newsies.

Tenors. 

All roles have multiple lines and solos and/or dance features and stage combat.

FRIENDS/ALLIES OF THE NEWSIES:

Katherine Plumber

Character's Gender: Female

Character's Age: 17 to 20

The strong-willed daughter of Pulitzer; this young lady drips smarts, opinions, and confidence; a young Katherine Hepburn or Ellen Page; this damsel needs no prince to save her. An ambitious young reporter, works hard to make a name for herself as a legitimate journalist in a time when women aren’t taken seriously. Quick, funny, and resourcesful, she boldy captures the voice of a new generation rising in her coverage of the newsies’ strike. While she generally has no time for cocky, streetwise young men, she makes an exception for Jack Kelly.

Though she only has a brief dance solo in “King of New York,” Katherine should have a great contemporary pop voice with a high belt – diction is key.

Sings solo, many lines, some dance, stage combat.

Mezzo-Soprano:

Vocal range top: F5

Vocal range bottom: A3

Medda Larkin

Character's Gender: Female

Character's Age: 25 to 45

Inspired by vaudeville performer Aida Overton Walker, this big-voiced saloon singer and star of the Bowery offers her theater as a safe haven for the newsies. Risqué and tough, an astute entertainer with great comic delivery, she’s a good friend to Jack and stands firmly behind the newsies in their fight for justice.

Sings solo, some dance. Comedic actress required.

Mezzo-Soprano:

Vocal range top: E5

Vocal range bottom: F3

Stage Manager

Character's Gender: Can be a male or female character. 

Character's Age: 25 to 55

The stage manager of Medda Larkin’s club and also the MC of her show, running the backstage area and introducing performers on stage.

This performer must be able to switch from a practical, efficient stage manager personality to an energetic and entertaining ‘host of the show’ when they are ‘on stage’ at the club.

Does not sing, some lines, no dance.

Spot Conlon

Character's Gender: Male

Character's Age: 17 to 20

The proud leader of the Brooklyn newsies, boasts an intimidating reputation.

Brooklyn, Staten Island as we can get. Think Mighty Mouse, should have an incredible presence. 

 Has a short singing solo in “Brooklyn’s Here.”

Tenor:

One solo, some lines, featured dancer.

Bill & Darcy

Character's Gender: Can be a male or female character. 

Character's Age: 15 to 25

The son of William Randolph Hearst (Bill) and the upper-class kid of a publisher (Darcy) join the newsies' cause. They help Katherine break in to use the basement printing press to print the newsies’ paper.

Can double as a Newsie. 

(Darcy often doubles as the Newsie Jojo, Bill as the Newsie Buttons). 

Some lines, some dance.

Mayor of New York

Character's Gender: Male

Character's Age: 45 to 60

The Mayor of New York City rebuffs Pulitzer’s attempts to shut down the newsies’ strike. This performer will double in other roles.

Some lines, no singing or dance.

Governor Teddy Roosevelt

Character's Gender: Male

Character's Age: 50 to 65

A well-respected lifelong public servant, inspires Jack to stand up to Pulitzer. This performer will double in other roles.

Some lines, no singing or dance.

Mr. or Mrs. Jacobi

Character's Gender: Can be female or male

Character's Age: 30's to 50's

Allows the newsies to congregate in his restaurant to plan their strike – when he doesn’t have any paying customers, that is. He is generous, and loves to crack jokes. 

Some lines, no singing or dance.

PULITZER & HIS STAFF:

Joseph Pulitzer

Character's Gender: Male

Character's Age: 35 to 50

A pompous businessman through and through, owns "The World" (a major NY newspaper) and is concerned solely with the bottom line. Katherine’s no-nonsense father, Pulitzer doesn’t sympathize with the strikers, but he does eventually – and grudgingly – respect Jack.  The boisterous forefather of Wm. F. Buckley Jr., Glen Beck, and Rupert Murdoch; an on-point, know-it-all politician; impolite and impatient with the world. 

Sings solos, many lines, no dance.

Baritone: 

Vocal range top: F4

Vocal range bottom: C3

Oscar Delancey and Morris Delancey

Character's Gender: Male

Character's Age: 15 to 20

Tough brothers who work at the distribution window for the World, take the side of the publishers in the strike and are known to use their fists to make a point.

These roles require two performers who work together well with good comic timing, but can also be physically intimidating. Although they do not dance, these roles still require a strong physical performance with excellent self-control for stage combat sequences.

Several lines, no dance, stage combat.

Seitz
Character's Gender: Can be a male or female character. 

An editor at "The World" who advises Pulitzer, but ultimately admires the newsies’ paper. 

Small solo, some lines, limited dance.

Bunsen

Character's Gender: Male

Character's Age: 35 to 50

Pulitzer’s bookkeeper, comes up with the ideas to raise the newsies’ price per paper.

Small solo, some lines, limited dance.

Hannah

Character's Gender: Female

Character's Age: 20 to 40

Pulitzer’s practical and insightful secretary. 

Small solo, some lines, limited dance.

Wiesel

Character's Gender: Male

Character's Age: 35 to 50

Or “Weasel,” runs the distribution window for the World and knows most of the newsies by name. Assisted by the intimidating Delancey brothers, who keep order by any means necessary, Wiesel is Pulitzer’s disgruntled paper-pusher.

Requires an exaggerated, cartoonish vocal and physical performance.

Sings ensemble only, several lines, no dance.

Snyder

Character's Gender: Can be a male or female character. 

Character's Age: 45 to 65

The crooked and sinister warden of The Refuge, a filthy and horrible orphanage, is concerned only with catching enough kids to keep his government checks coming. Though he doesn’t work for Pulitzer, he’s happy to team up with him to take down the newsies and get his hands on Jack.

This role requires a strong physical and vocal character performance.

Several lines, no dance.

Nunzio

Character's Gender: Male

Character's Age: 30 to 50

Pulitzer’s barber, who is trying to cut Pulitzer’s hair during the song "The Bottom Line" and the scene prior.

This role requires a strong physical comedy performance.

Italian accent preferred.

Does not sing, some lines, character movement feature. 

Guard

Character's Gender: Male

Character's Age: 20 to 60

The guard who throws Jack, Davey, and Les out of the building when they try to get in to see Pulitzer. This performer will double in other roles.

Does not sing, one line. 

Photographer

Character's Gender: Can be a male or female character. 

Character's Age: 15 to 25

Takes the triumphant photo of the newsies at the end of “Seize the Day.” This performer will double in other roles.

Sings ensemble, limited dance. 

Woman

Character's Gender: Female

Character's Age: 15 to 45

A newspaper customer. Speaking role.

SMALL ENSEMBLES:

These are small groups with 3-10 featured in each ensemble. Additional features in dance, solos, and lines will be cast from among the ensembles.

Brooklyn Newsies

Character's Gender: Male

Character's Ages: 13 to 20

Spot Conlon’s gang, the Brooklyn newsies are feared, admired, and respected by the other newsies city-wide. When they add their support to the strike in their feature number Brooklyn’s Here, they cause a waterfall effect that brings every other newsie in the city on board.

Sing ensemble, Dance feature

Scabs

Character's Gender: Male

Character's Ages: 10 to 20

Three Newsies from other boroughs brought in to “break” the strike. They are hesitant, and instead they throw down their papers and become new members of Jack Kelly’s gang.

Sing ensemble, some dance, some stage combat.

The Bowery Beauties

Character's Gender: Female

Character's Ages: 18 to 30

A small group of female dancers who join Medda Larkin on stage.

Vaudeville-style dancers, these performers must have strong, sharp dance skills, big facial expressions, and be strong singers.

Sing ensemble, dance feature.

Nuns (3)

Character's Gender: Female

Character's Ages: 20 to 60

A small group of nuns who offer free breakfast to hungry newsies.

These performers must have strong singing voices and an ability to hold their melody while other performers sing counterpoint.

Small ensemble singing feature

LARGE ENSEMBLES:

Larger ensembles—most performers may be a member of at least one of these groups.

Goons

Character's Gender: Male

Character's Ages: 15 to 20

Thugs that are hired to join the Delanceys to rough up the newsies.

Students in these roles must demonstrate excellent physical self control and strong physical acting.

Stage Combat. 

Policemen

Character's Gender: Male

Character's Ages: 20 to 60

Cops that show up during the strike riot. At first the newsies think the cops are there to help them, but the police join the fight on the Snyder’s side and begin arresting newsies and taking them away.

Stage Combat. 

Manhattan, Flushing, Richmond, Woodside and Bronx Newsies

Character's Gender: Male
Newsies from every other corner of the city that assemble to join the strike.

Sing ensemble, dance.

Kids at the Refuge

Character's Gender: Male

Other kids who are incarcerated at the Refuge along with Crutchie.

Physical performance.

ADDITIONAL INFO

Resources

You should definitely soak in as much as you can - start by listening to the Soundtrack, and then watch the Broadway production!

SHOW HISTORY

HISTORICAL ACCURACY

* Jack Kelly is the amalgamation of several historical leaders of the Newsboys’ Strike of 1899, primarily Kid Blink (who is featured in the film but omitted from the musical), known as a charismatic speaker and a leader to the younger boys.

* Other real strikers included in the show are Racetrack Higgins, Mush Meyers, and Spot Conlon.  

* There were some newsies that were girls, but mostly being a newsie was a boy's job, and girls worked in match factories as "match girls."

* Although Katherine Plumber is fictional character, she is named for Pulitzer's daughter Katherine Ethel, who died of pneumonia in 1884 at the age of 2. 

* In the musical, the newspapers raise prices during July in 1899 after pressure to sell more papers after the war. However, the price for the papers was actually raised from 50 cents to 60 cents, during the Spanish American War. The cause of the strike was that they did not lower the high price after the war was over. This caused the newsies to revolt because they felt that it was more difficult to sell papers without the exciting news of the war, plus the additional pressures of the price changes.

* At the height of the strike, on July 24, 1899, the Newsboys Union held a massive rally at the New Irving Theatre, a vaudeville venue on the Bowery (reimagined in the musical as Medda Larkin's theatre). 

* It is rumored that for a period of time during the strike that Kid Blink secretly began working with Pulitzer and Hearst, which resulted in a massive riot of strikers vs. scabbers, similar to Jack's near-betrayal after Pulitzer promises him a full ride to Santa Fe.

* Unlike in the film, the musical follows the historical ending of the strike, where the World and the Journal agreed to buy back all unsold papers.  Historically, the price was kept at 60 cents per 100, but in the musical they strike a deal for 55 cents per 100 papers.

NEWSIES THE FILM (1992)

* Newsies began as a film. It was a 1992 American musical comedy-drama film, produced by Walt Disney Pictures and directed by choreographer Kenny Ortega in his film directing debut.

* Loosely based on the actual New York City Newsboys' Strike of 1899 and featuring twelve original songs by Alan Menken and an underscore by J.A.C. Redford, it starred Christian BaleDavid MoscowBill PullmanRobert Duvall and Ann-Margret.

* The film was an initial box office bomb and received negative to mixed reviews at the time of its release, but later gained a large cult following on home video. 

Stage Premiere (2011)

Newsies The Musical premiered at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey on September 25, 2011. The production was directed by Jeff Calhoun with choreography by Christopher Gattelli. This production was later transferred to Broadway with several changes in the music and actors.

Original Broadway Production (2012-2014)

* The musical opened on Broadway at the Nederlander Theatre on March 29, 2012. 

* The original cast of the Broadway production featured Jeremy Jordan as Jack Kelly and John Dossett as newspaper tycoon Joseph Pulitzer. The cast also included Kara Lindsay as Katherine Plumber, Capathia Jenkins as Medda Larkin, Ben Fankhauser as Davey, Andrew Keenan-Bolger as Crutchie, and Lewis Grosso and Matthew Schechter sharing the role of Les. 

* The Broadway production cost about $5 million to stage. Newsies recouped its initial investment of $5M in seven months, becoming the fastest of any Disney musical on Broadway to turn a profit.

* Producers announced in August 2012 that due to his commitments with NBC's Smash, leading man Jordan would leave the musical. It was also confirmed that newcomer Corey Cott would be his replacement.

* The musical closed on August 24, 2014, having played 1,004 performances.

* Newsies was nominated for eight Tony Awards, winning two.

Differences between the 1992 Film and the 2012 Broadway Musical

* In addition to the songs from the original movie, Newsies The Musical contains several new numbers such as 'Brooklyn's Here' and 'Something To Believe In.' The songs "My Lovey Dovey Baby" and "High Times Hard Times" were removed and replaced by the singular song "That's Rich", which is performed by the same character, Medda Larkin, while the remaining songs were rewritten to fit the changes in the storyline between the film and the musical.

* Davey and Les's parents are mentioned only in conversation, omitting a scene from the movie where Jack has dinner in their tenement apartment. The lyrics to Santa Fe are changed to compensate for this change.

* The characters of Sarah Jacobs (Davey and Les's sister and Jack's original love interest) and the New York Sun reporter Brian Denton are replaced by the composite character Katherine Plumber, a reporter with whom Jack falls in love.

* Also omitted was the solo for "Patrick's Mother." 

* A scene with Jack, Davey, and Spot Conlon is absent, as is Spot's involvement in the fight between the newsies and scabbers; Spot doesn't appear until the rally.

* A solo number for Crutchie titled “Letter from the Refuge” was added for national tour, replacing a scene from the movie where Jack visits Crutchie after he is captured by Snyder. “Letter From the Refuge” now appears in the current version of the show that is licensed to theatre companies.

FILMED STAGE PRODUCTION

* In 2016, the musical stage production of Newsies was filmed in Los Angeles (at the Pantages Theatre) with a limited national release.

* In 2017, on the 25th anniversary of the original film's theatrical release, it was announced the filmed stage production would be released for digital download. 

* Some alumni from the Broadway production reprised their leading roles, notably Jeremy Jordan as Jack, Kara Lindsay as Katherine, Ben Fankhauser as Davey, Andrew Keenan-Bolger as Crutchie and Tommy Bracco as Spot Conlon. Several ensemble tracks were added to the show to provide roles for swings. 

SOUNDTRACK

The Broadway cast recording was released on iTunes in 2012, from Ghostlight Records. Six songs were added for the stage adaptation, including three newly written for the Broadway production since the Paper Mill Playhouse debut: "The Bottom Line," "That's Rich" and "Something to Believe In" (replacing "Then I See You Again," also written for the stage adaptation)

Trivia​​

  • Aside from newspaper magnate Joseph Pulitzer (played by Robert Duvall in the movie), most of the characters in "Newsies" are made up. But there really was a newsboy strike in New York in 1899. One of the strike's leaders was known as Kid Blink, a name given to a lesser character in the movie.

  • For the productions of Newsies on Broadway, the song King of New York has many tap dancing solos on tables. But the sound on the wood was often drowned out and not heard in the theatre, so microphones were taped to the bottom of tables so everything was heard. 

  • In the film, Christian Bale and the rest of the cast went through two months of musical boot camp, where they spent hours each day learning singing, dancing, gymnastics, martial arts, and speaking in New York dialects, on top of their regular schooling. "I don't know what kind of dance you would call the 'Newsies' training," the Method-loving Bale recalled later, "but we got very fit, jumped around a lot, and I got very dizzy."

  • "Newsies" became a professional stage musical in 2011, in part because, as Ortega learned, high schools all over America had been producing their own unsanctioned stage versions of the film, without paying Disney any royalties. The musical moved to Broadway in 2012, where it ran for two years and was nominated for eight Tonys. It won two, for Menken's score and for choreography.