Review of “Newsies”

Jansen Preston and Remy Ricciardi

Disney’s 2017 musical rendition of Newsies’ is based on the New York City newsboys Strike of 1899. The musical is about a group of teenagers living in New York City, and they are struggling to battle bigger dreams and rising paper prices. The three main characters are Jack Kelly, the rebel leader of the newsboys, who wants to reach his dreams of traveling and being an artist, Crutchie, the lovable sidekick who sticks with Jack till the very end, and Katherine, who is a beautiful ally helping the newsboys have a voice.  

Remy: Ok lets start. How did you feel about Newsies?

Jansen: The musical was exceptional. It strayed away from the typical Disney rom-com plot, like shown in High School Musical. It touched on a deeper event, a more serious matter. It incorporated romance, drama, and action to create a piece that tackles equality while also depicting a brotherhood like no other. How did you feel about it? I remember you saying you were a little bored during it. 

Remy: At first, I definitely was bored at some scenes as I felt they were a little dragged out, especially the fight scenes in particular. However, looking back at it, this was an incredible musical that showed masculinity more than the one-dimensional way that we are so accustomed to. 

Jansen: When I was watching it for the first time, I picked up on that early on. The opening number Santa Fe shows two male figures, creating a juxtaposition and showing that masculinity can be expressed in numerous ways. It opens up with Crutchie limping up with a long-sleeve collared shirt and a raggedy vest on. Jack is in a muscle tee and well-fitted clothes, clearly exposing his outer and inner strength to the audience. 

Remy: Jack is also seen in this scene lifting Crutchie up with one hand (damnnnnn). The creators were intentional with the formation of Jack Kelly. He was strong, attractive, and masculine, yet still emotional. In the opening scene, he immediately shares his opinions and dreams to the audience. I liked that he expressed emotions throughout the musical as a lead. It definitely contradicts some of the masculine stereotypes we have nowadays – that men can’t do that. Being a Disney film, kid’s do watch this and it allows them to see that it is acceptable to be strong yet sensitive. 

Jansen: Needless to say, it is also what allowed the brotherhood feeling to emerge. Throughout the musical, the theme is seen and it is even written about in Katherine’s article that she published. It is the main thing that keeps the newsboys together. It drives the storyline, showing that they are one unit that will conquer the inequality they are facing. 

Remy: It is also present in the number “Seize the Day.” This was in fact my favorite number of the musical. From the newspaper slamming on the floor, to the pirouetting, the number was filled with lively and energetic movements. The ripping of the newspaper and the switching back and forth shows their strength and unity. 

Jansen: Christopher Gattelli did a great job choreographing. It takes a lot of precision to choreograph that many cast members whilst using the props they used. They had the pipes up in almost every scene symbolizing the New York buildings, and people had to learn how to run up and down and fight each other. This dance number displayed many themes of the show. It showed brotherhood and unity through the synchronous movements and flips through the air. The flips and jumps also showed bravery, which is another characteristic that the newsboys hold.

Remy: The incorporation of Crutchie into the dance number took it from great to excellent. Because of Crutchie’s condition, he was unable to partake in many of the moves, yet his significance was still felt on the stage. 

Jansen: The different masculine forms were also present within this number. It was filled with pirouettes and graceful moments, yet it was still able to convey this undeniable strength and unity. This is another instance of the musical showing us it is important to be strong and sensitive at the same time.

Remy: Yes, I couldn’t agree more. It was empowering and was the moment where the switch flipped for the boys. This is also when Davey commits fully to the cause. 

Jansen: I am glad you mentioned Davey. I wanted to say something about the leadership dynamic. Davey and Jack were both depicted in well-fitting clothes. Obviously, Davey looked cleaner, but by his outfits and intelligence, I would have pictured him to also be a leader. 

Remy: Yes, but Jack was and he was from the very beginning. No one questioned his authority or even fought for it. It was just an accepted concept. I don’t know if it’s because he has more of these “masculine features” or if it’s because of Davey’s lack of interaction with girls and Jack’s ability to smooth talk. Jack pursued Katherine the whole musical and was extremely confident in this aspect and other parts of his life. 

Jansen: Davey had this awkwardness to him, which may have played into his lack of contact with girls. His younger brother even made a comment about a woman’s long legs, which surprised me that Davey did not. Every main character always ends up having a relationship, especially in Disney movies. It was no shock they ended up together at the end. 

Remy: Did you like their relationship? 

Jansen: I liked that they were brought together at the end. I have seen where people call it sexist or playing to the patriarchy, but I do not think that is the intention and it definitely is not what I saw. 

Remy: Really? I disagree. I wish the girl would have rejected him or continued writing for the newspaper. It seemed as though Katherine wouldn’t be fully happy until she ended up with a boy, and it just took away from her own storyline that she ended up with Jack. 

Jansen: I will stand by it. Jack and Katherine’s relationship is what allowed there to be a solid ending to a musical that fixated on the strikes. It was an added storyline that allowed for more volume within the musical and created a joyful connection for the audience. 

Remy: It would have been more valuable for all the young girls out there watching this musical to see a strong woman lead. This film was dominated by males, and males that were persistent in their remarks about her. If a male lead was given the ability to show emotion, then why shouldn’t a female lead be able to be strong and not have a love interest? I know this is loosely based on an event in history. However, I doubt that these men shared what we would classify as “a feminine side” back then because that was just not widely accepted. So my point is, if the creators changed it to allow these men to show more emotions openly, then why couldn’t they change the end for Katherine? It seemed as though she was giving up part of her passion to be with a man and had settled. 

Jansen: Do you see Katherine’s power questioned anywhere else in the play? 

Remy: Yes, specifically in the song, “Watch What Happens.” She sings about having no clue what she is doing, and she says it repeatedly. It makes the audience question her talent as a writer. She doesn’t exhibit a confident persona, which in the end makes us question her abilities. She also sings about Jack and makes a desirable comment about his looks. She had just previously rejected him numerous times in the scene before, so when hearing this, it just caught me off guard. She went back on everything she just did. She was strong and then basically drooling over him minutes later. The musical painted men in this masculine way, where they could accomplish anything if they set their minds to it, and they never really doubted themselves. 

Jansen: I do see what you are saying. She does accomplish a lot, but it’s these smaller details that make what she accomplished less important than it should be. She was so confident in front of the men, and then not right afterwards. It would have been incredible to see her, as one of the only women in the show, be strong in her abilities while she was alone too. 

Remy: Overall, the musical has a lot of positive features to it as it shows young kids that masculinity can take many forms. It would have been nice to see Katherine have a different ending, but her talent is not forgotten and it is a start to something. 

Jansen: This musical was good because of the different rom-com feel it had to it, and it portrayed many important themes throughout, such as bravery, sensitivity, confidence, brotherhood, and friendship. The dance numbers were powerful, yet elegant, and the songs were meaningful as well. Overall, I enjoyed this musical more than most. 

“I love you more…than when a guy gets a girl at the end of a book” ~Morgan Wallen~


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