Labor: The Musical! ‘Newsies’ spins a historic strike into sing-along fun time

Newsies is at the Smith Center March 17-22.
Deen Van Meer

You’ll be forgiven if you don’t remember Newsies hitting theaters back in 1992. The musical film, which starred a young Christian Bale as singing, dancing, “pape”-slinging orphan Jack Kelly, was a box-office flop for powerhouse Disney. Apparently no one particularly wanted a heartwarming historical tale of striking New York newsboys exploring the wonders of organized labor and trying to stick it to media barons William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer.

Until they did. Newsies won a strong cult following after its release on video, and in 2011 it even spawned its own stage musical adaptation, which was nominated for eight Tony Awards, winning Best Choreography and Best Original Score

Like the film, Newsies the musical, which plays at the Smith Center March 17-22, is based on the historic Newsboys Strike of 1899. And like the film, the play follows a cohort of child laborers as they hock the day’s headlines around New York City. When the men at the top of the paper chain try to raise the cost of the newsboys’ papers, Kelly and co. organize a strike, boycotting the offending publications with much belting of tunes and impressive heel clicking in the process.

Child labor hardly seems like the foundation of a sing-along Broadway smash, but with a fresh-faced cast, infectious numbers and plenty of knickers, Newsies spins its tale into an uplifting underdog story that’s easy to love. You may even want to buy a newspaper by the time it’s done.

Newsies March 17-22; Tuesday-Friday, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday & Sunday, 2 & 7:30 p.m.; $39-$139. Smith Center's Reynolds Hall, 702-749-2000.

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