Hi there J-14ers!
Exactly 20 years ago today on April 10, 1992, the movie musical Newsies opened in theaters. Not very many people went to see it. In fact, it only made $2.8 million at the box office domestically -- and since it cost $15 million to make, it was considered a major flop.
But then something started to happen -- over the years, people started discovering the movie musical on video and on DVD. The soundtrack started selling. Kids started singing the songs, learning the dances, and crushing on the cast of cute boys. Slowly, the movie started building up a cult audience.
I was one of those fans. I knew the movie was coming out. I cut out ads from the newspaper when it hit theaters, but I didn't bother going to see it then. I read about the stars in teen magazines and decided to buy the soundtrack. After I learned all the songs by heart, I decided to buy the movie on video (yes, it was a different time back then -- haha). But then I became obsessed.
Newsies wasn't just a movie about the newspaper boys strike of 1899. Newsies wasn't just about a bunch of kids who brought down two of the most powerful media moguls in history. Newsies had a greater message about finding your voice -- and speaking up and fighting for what you believe in... even against the odds.
Sure I loved the movie because I crushed on Spot Conlon (Gabriel Damon) and was a huge fan of Bill Pullman, who played newspaper reporter, Denton. But what I really loved was the message behind the movie. In fact, Newsies inspired me to pursue my love for journalism and writing even though I was discouraged by my friends and family to do it. The Newsies taught me that if you love something enough and if you're passionate about something, you can reach your goal no matter what challenges lie in your path.
And then ironically, the sensation of Newsies itself started to prove that exact message. What was a huge bomb at the box office was performed by so many schools and theatre groups that Disney Theatrical decided to turn it into a stage musical and franchise the script for local productions to perform officially. They wrote it up and tried it out at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, NJ, last fall... and a funny thing happened...
Newsies itself found its voice. Fans from around the country traveled to New Jersey to see the show and it sold out night after night. The show had to close despite its rave reviews... but then another funny thing happened. The Nederlander Theater on Broadway happened to have an opening... and the Newsies set was already built, why not bring it to Broadway for a limited engagement for 12 weeks?
And yet another funny thing happened -- turns out there was a huge audience for Newsies, both old and new fans. Fans lined up down the street to get tickets for the Broadway production. And the run was extended through August 19.
Newsies is a true Cinderella story of a box office failure turned into a Broadway success. Sure it took 20 years, sure it took some chances, and sure it took some fate... but today, on the exact day two decades after Newsies was officially deemed a flop, the official Broadway cast recording is out digitally, proving that with determination and perserverance, anything can happen. Newsies is the little engine that could.
So two decades ago, I woke up today and opted not to see the movie that would ultimately change my life. But today, I woke up and went online and sang along to new versions of Newsies classics like "Carrying the Banner," "King of New York," and my personal favorite, "Once and For All," as well as empowering new songs like the girl-power touting "Watch What Happens."
So take a chance, stick to your goals, and you just may be surprised by what you can accomplish. And if you need a little inspiration? Simply turn to the Newsies!
Have you heard of the musical Newsies? What do you think of it?
Can't wait to hear from you!
J-14 Editor Rachel Chang with Disney's Newsies Broadway star Jeremy Jordan