I had the wonderful opportunity to meet with Steve Fickinger, VP of Creative Development and Licensing for NEWSIES on Broadway, the man responsible for getting “Newsies The Musical” to the stage. He’s the same man behind the brilliance of many of Disney’s Broadway shows.
A handsome man with an easy smile, Fickinger’s passion for his new show was evident from the first moment we met. “First of all, I love the show, and second of all, I’ve been working on it for seven years,” he said with an animated smile. He went on to explain say, “…this is my job in a nutshell, is if somebody says, “Newsies”, let’s make it a stage musical, my job is to get the writer, the lyricist, the composer, spend that period for “X” amount of time, which can be “XYZ” amount of time with doing readings, drafts, notes, workshops, and then we do the first production to actually get the director, choreographer, set designer, etcetera.” He continued, “So I would say my job starts with the idea, and my job is done when the curtain comes down on opening night, and everyone loves the show.”
Fickinger went on to share that at the beginning of the project his first calls were to Alan Menken and Jack Feldman, as both men worked on the film version. He also connected with Bob Tzudicker and Noni White who wrote the original film script, “And I said, so let’s do this thing.”
Set in New York City at the turn of the century, Newsies is the rousing tale of Jack Kelly, a charismatic newsboy and leader of a ragged band of teenaged ‘newsies,’ who dreams only of a better life far from the hardship of the streets. But when publishing titans Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst raise distribution prices at the newsboys’ expense, Jack finds a cause to fight for and rallies newsies from across the city to strike for what’s right. Newsies is inspired by the real-life ‘Newsboy Strike of 1899,’ when newsboy Kid Blink led a band of orphan and runaway newsies on a two-week-long action against Pulitzer, Hearst and other powerful newspaper publishers.
But it would be a year before they could get all of these high-powered people into one room to discuss the project. It was then that they started working on the stage adaptation, a process that took approximately two years.
Fickinger explains, “Doing a stage musical is a very specific skill set, which is very few people do it…You have to understand the sort of shorthand in which people write in musicals. Scenes don’t tend to be long, the scene has to kind of ramp up to a song, the song is supposed to be the expression of the moment, it’s supposed to further the story, it’s supposed to crystallize what’s happening in that moment, and then you kind of have to get out what we call button the scene.”
Unfortunately Tzudicker and White while terrific writers, weren’t as naturally suited for this genre, so the rough draft was tabled and thankfully the duo took the news well and very graciously said, “we wanna be part of it, we’ll always be part of it, we wanna a seat at the table, we want a ticket to the party, but let’s find somebody else to write it.”
Newsies The Musical,
Broadway’s Nederlander Theater
Performances Begin March 15th For a Limited Performance Engagement
Purchase tickets through NewsiesTheMusical.com, by calling Ticketmaster’s Disney on Broadway hotline (866-870-2717), or in person at the Nederlander Theatre box office (map and directions) Monday through Saturday 10:00am – 8:00pm through March 11th then Monday through Saturday 10:00am – 8:00pm and Sunday 11:00am – 7:00pm.
With that, the search was on for a writer better suited for the theatre. So the entire script was thrown out and they started over with the loveable and sometimes whacky Harvey Fierstein. You likely know him from his film roles in “Mrs. Doubtfire” and “Independence Day,” or even his stage work in “Hairspray,” Fiddler on the Roof,” or “Torch Song Trilogy.” He’s also been active in television and has appeared on such shows as “How I Met Your Mother,” “Nurse Jackie,” and “The Simpsons.”
But what you may not know is that he is a prolific writer. He’s written for the stage and screen and is an active political editorialist who’s been published in The New York Times and The Huffington Post. His work has been broadcast on “In the Life” on PBS and his book for children, “The Sissy Duckling,” is in its forth printing. He’s also a four-time Tony Award winner and as Fickinger notes, a “contemporary man of the theater.” And yet strangely Fickinger tried to dissuade Fierstein from taking on the challenge. Not because the team didn’t think he was a fabulous fit for the job, but because he felt that perhaps he didn’t realize the scope and besides, there were other projects he might want to use him in. But Fierstein was firm, he said, “no, I want to do ‘Newsies.’” So that’s how Harvey Feirstein came to take on the role as writer to transform this movie into a theatrical work of art.
But, this show wasn’t meant for Broadway…..
I’ll be sharing more in the next week or two about the show – the production, the cast, the location, and more. Until then, I’m streaming the movie on Amazon.com to remind me just how fabulous it is.
- ‘Newsies’ Catches Broadway’s Attention (artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Review: Disney’s Mary Poppins on Broadway #DisneyDreamWorksEvent (princesstimetoys.com)
- Paige O’Hara on the Legacy of being Princess Belle and What She’s Working on Now (miscfinds4u.com)
- Jordan joins ‘Newsies’ (variety.com)
- ‘High School Musical’ Graduates to Multimedia Hit (npr.org)