“Newsies” is a show that proves eventually everything finds an audience. Initially a 1992 movie starring a young Christian Bale, the musical was an epic flop and one of Disney’s lowest-grossing movies ever.
Perhaps the world just wasn’t ready for a singing, dancing retelling of the 1899 New York paperboy strike. At any rate, the movie seemed destined to be yet another lost relic in the dustbin of cinematic history.
But then something strange happened, it developed a strong following as a significant group of people, largely consisting of millennials, discovered the movie on home video.
This is the story of many a cult movie, but what makes “Newsies” stand out is, with the realization there was a built-in audience, it got adapted for the stage and, in 2012 —20 years after hitting theaters —”Newsies” debuted on Broadway and became a Tony Award-winning smash.
The touring production of the show has arrived at the Fox Theatre through Jan. 31, and proves to be a show entirely worthy of success after such a long, arduous journey.
Set in the era before child-labor laws, “Newsies” is the story of a group of hardscrabble newsboys who eke out a meager living hocking newspapers on the streets of New York.
When the greedy newspaper owner Joseph Pulitzer (Steve Blanchard) decides to fatten his bottom line by charging the paperboys more for their newspapers, the lads quickly realize they are getting the short end of the stick.
Led by the charismatic Jack Kelly (Joey Barreiro), the newsboys decide to take a stand. With his best pal Crutchie (Zachary Sayle) by his side and some logistical and emotional support from Davey (Stephen Michael Langton) and his kid brother Les (John Michael Pitera), Jack leads a company of street-tough and fleet-footed newsboys to strike.
Even though the odds are long, the newsboys find a champion in cub reporter Katherine (Morgan Keene), who believes in their cause and also has eyes for Jack.
While the music and the cast are all top-notch, what makes “Newsies” stand out are the lively and acrobatic dance numbers. The company of newsboys leap and tumble with a choreographed precision that is second to none.
Songs like “Seize the Day” and “King of New York” are memorable and toe-tapping. Barreiro gives a charming performance (sporting an ever-so-slight resemblance to Christian Bale) and Keene gives a refreshing, slightly quirky turn with a strong, but syncopated, vocal style that is all her own and makes her stand out against the leading-lady clones who always belt precisely when you expect them to belt.
More than anything, “Newsies” is just a whole lot of fun and a perfect night out for the whole family. You can’t help but be glad this was one flop that deservedly avoided obscurity.
“Newsies” is now playing at the Fox Theatre through Jan. 31. For tickets, call 314-534-1111 or go to metrotix.com.