ABOUT THE MUSICAL

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.


 

CASTING: 

Character Breakdowns 

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.

MALE CHARACTERS:

Jack Kelly 

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.

Must have a great pop tenor voice and sense of physicality. Sings solo, many lines, some dancing, stage combat.

Vocal range top: A4

Vocal range bottom: Bb2

Crutchie

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, 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.

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.

Vocal range top: A4

Vocal range bottom: C3

Davey

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.

Sings solo, many lines, some dance.

Vocal range top: A4

Vocal range bottom: D3

Les

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.

Vocal range top: Bb3

Vocal range bottom: Db3

Joseph Pulitzer

Gender: Male

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.

Sings solos, many lines, no dance.

Vocal range top: F4

Vocal range bottom: C3

Wiesel

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.

Spot Conlon

The proud leader of the Brooklyn newsies, boasts an intimidating reputation and a short singing solo in “Brooklyn’s Here.”

One solo, some lines, featured dancer.

Age: 17 to 20

Oscar Delancey and Morris Delancey

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.

Stage Manager

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.

Age: 25 to 55

Bill

Age: 15 to 25

The son of William Randolph Hearst who joins the newsies' cause. He and Darcy help Katherine break in to use the basement printing press to print the newsies’ paper. These actors will double in other roles.

Some lines, some dance.

Darcy

Age: 15 to 25

The upper-class kid of a publisher who sides with the newsies. They help Katherine break in to use the basement printing press to print the newsies’ paper. These actors will double in other roles.

Some lines, some dance.

Seitz

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

Small solo, some lines, limited dance.

Bunsen

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

Age: 35 to 50

Small solo, some lines, limited dance.

Nunzio

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. 

Snyder

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.

Age: 45 to 65

Several lines, no dance.

Mayor of New York

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

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.

Photographer

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

Sings ensemble, limited dance. 

Age: 15 to 25

Guard

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.

Age: 20 to 60

Do not sing, one line. 

FEMALE CHARACTERS:

Katherine Plumber

Age: 17 to 20

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.

Vocal range top: F5

Vocal range bottom: A3

Medda Larkin

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. 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.

Vocal range top: E5

Vocal range bottom: F3

Hannah

Age: 20 to 40

Pulitzer’s practical and insightful secretary.

Small solo, some lines, limited dance.

Mr(s). Jacobi 

Can be a male or female character. 
Allows the newsies to congregate in his(her) restaurant to plan their strike – when (s)he doesn’t have any paying customers, that is. This role may be played with an accent of the actors choice, and the character can be portrayed as a first-generation immigrant to NY.

Several lines, no singing or dance.

Age: 35 to 55

Woman

A newspaper customer.

Age: 15 to 45

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.

Newsies Ensemble

Age: 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 14 newsies in Jack’s “Gang”: Albert, Buttons, Elmer, Finch, Henry, Ike, Jo Jo, Mike, Mush, Race, Romeo, Specs, Splasher, and Tommy Boy.

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

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

Scabs

Age: 10 to 20

Newsies from other boroughs brought in to “break” the strike. 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

Age: 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

Age: 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 will be a member of at least one of these groups.

Goons

Age: 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

Age: 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 
Newsies from every other corner of the city that assemble to join the strike.

Sing ensemble, dance.

KIDS AT THE REFUGE

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

Physical performance.

EXAMPLES OF DOUBLING

In the original Broadway production, the adult (non-newsie) ensemble was comprised of actors who doubled. All other featured roles were cast from the ensemble of newsies. We may cast similarly, or expand, as our resources allow.

FEMALE ENSEMBLE 1 - Nun / Hannah / Bowery Beauty 
FEMALE ENSEMBLE 2 - Nun / Woman / Bowery Beauty 
FEMALE ENSEMBLE 3 - Nun / Medda Larkin
MALE ENSEMBLE 1 - Wiesel / Stage Manager / Mr. Jacobi / Mayor 
MALE ENSEMBLE 2 - Seitz / Roosevelt 
MALE ENSEMBLE 3 - Bunsen / Male Ensemble 
MALE ENSEMBLE 4 - Nunzio / Guard / Policeman / Roosevelt
MALE ENSEMBLE 5 - Snyder / Pulitzer 

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 Mothe." 

*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.

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