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                           By Ed Lieberman



At a time when the youth of the world are taking leadership roles in calling attention to issues such as climate change and gun control, Westchester Broadway Theatre is presenting Newsies, an exuberant musical adaptation of the 1992 Disney movie of the same name that starred Christian Bale. Although the movie was a box office failure, it developed a cult-like following for its score and choreography. The musical’s book was reimagined by none other than Harvey Fierstein, and it boasts an expanded score by Alan Menken, with lyrics by Jack Feldman.

The show recounts the true story of an 1899 strike by newsboys in the City of New York against the newspaper titans of the day, Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst, over what the publishers charged the newsboys to sell their papers. During the Spanish-American War, Mssrs Hearst and Pulitzer, and their rival afternoon papers, the Journal and the World, respectively, engaged in an increasingly hysterical brand of journalism known as “Yellow Journalism.” The main method of selling the afternoon papers was by newsboys, many of whom lived on the streets, who paid 50 cents to buy 100 papers from the publishers, which they sold to the public for a penny. No refunds were given for unsold papers. During the war, the publishers raised their price to the newsboys to 60 cents, which was not a problem while the war hysteria was pushing sales. After the war ended, however, circulation returned to normal levels and most newspapers reduced their prices to the “newsies” back to 50 cents/100. Pulitzer and Hearst refused to do so, however, squeezing the newsboys. So they formed a union and struck. The strike expanded from Manhattan to Brooklyn and beyond, and reduced circulation by almost two-thirds. It had all the elements of a general strike, including anti-scab violence and pro-union rallies. After two weeks the strike was settled -- not won -- by compromise: the price remained 60 cents/100, but the newsboys received refunds for unsold papers. This was seen as a win for the boys and the union movement, in general, and helped lead to enactment of child labor laws. All this is touched upon in the book. Thus, following another Disney adage, that  “A Spoonful of Sugar Helps the Medicine Go Down,” youngsters in the audience will enjoy the infectious songs and energetic choreography, while learning some valuable New York history and lessons in hard-headed labor politics!


It helps immeasurably that WBT has chosen its cast with customary care. Virtually everyone involved in this production is spot-on. Headlining the cast is Daniel Scott Walton, as the newsboys’ leader, Jack Kelly, who starts the show wanting to escape New York City for the open air of “Santa Fe,” but ends up hobnobbing with the likes of Joseph Pulitzer and Teddy Roosevelt. He “adopts” newcomers Davey (played by Alec Cohen) and his young brother, Les (Benjamin Wohl), who have to earn money to support their family because their father was injured on the job.


Patrick Tombs as Crutchie. "Letter From The Refuge."


 Another main character among the newsboys is Crutchie, played by Patrick Tombs, who displays a mean Brooklyn accent.



Mary Beth Donahoe (as Katherine Plumber) "Watch What Happens."


Other leading performers deserving of mention are Mary Beth Donohoe, as a reporter who befriends the strikers by publicizing their strike, Galyana Castillo, who plays a nightclub singer/owner, who provides a hiding place for Jack and other strikers, and a special shout out goes to Stuart Marland, who plays the villain of the piece, Joseph Pulitzer. Mr. Marland displays a particularly strong voice, capable of conveying the arrogance and power of his position. 

The rest of the cast, too numerous to name individually, are full of enthusiasm and talent, which are needed to perform the songs and acrobatic dance numbers choreographed by Shea Sullivan, under the direction of Mark Martino. As is typical at WBT, the costumes (by Keith Nielsen), set (by Steve Loftus) and lighting (Andrew Gmoser) successfully convey the inequalities between the street urchin newsboys and the titans of industry and politics. Finally, the musical direction of Bob Bray perfectly managed, and did not overcome, the large, sometimes unruly, cast of Newsies.


In sum, “Seize the Day,” and bring the kids! They will absorb valuable history lessons while enjoying the acrobatic dances and infectious score of Alan Menken. Hopefully, they will be inspired to join their national and international cohorts and lead us all into a brighter future! 

But you must come quickly: Newsies is only playing through May 26th.

Box Office: (914) 592-2222;

                                                          Ed Lieberman