You remember Newsies, the 1992 Disney cult hit about a turn of the 20th century New York City paperboy strike — a.k.a. the kids movie in which Christian Bale sings and dances. Well, Millburn, N.J.’s Paper Mill Playhouse is about to host the world premiere of the Bale-free stage version. The producers staged a special advanced presentation today of four numbers from the new show, which begins performances Sept. 15 for a Sept. 25 opening. For those fans out there (and I’m one of them), we’ve got the lowdown on what’s the same, what’s different, and what we’re really, really excited to see.
• Don’t expect to hear the Razzie-winning song “High Times, Hard Times.” That tune, along with showgirl Medda’s “My Lovey Dovey Baby,” was cut (the former at the request of book writer Harvey Fierstein). Expect four or five new songs in their place, including a solo by a brand spanking new character and a number dedicated to the Brooklyn newsies.
• Jack Kelly’s back — shorter, hunkier, and without that weird cowboy hat. According to Fierstein, the first element of the film he knew he wanted to drop is the lead character’s obsession with cowboys and the West. The new Jack (a role created by Bale in the film) is a budding artist. And as played by Jeremy Jordan (who’ll play Clyde Barrow in the upcoming Broadway musical Bonnie and Clyde), he’s also stockier and better looking, and a trained singer with a genuine-sounding New York accent.
• You’ll still hear Jack’s dreamy ballad “Santa Fe.” But this time around, it’s gotten some new lyrics, and it’s opening the show instead of serving as a mid-story sleeper. Now it’s a duet with fellow newsie Crutchie (first played by Marty Belafsky) that leads to a rousing rendition of the movie’s original opening number, “Carrying the Banner,” with choreography by Tony-nominated Christopher Gattelli (South Pacific) that pays homage to the film.
• Girls, there’s now a real heroine for you. Fierstein replaced Bill Pullman’s weathered journalist with a young female lead who gets way more story time than the film’s little-seen female star. Katherine (played by Kara Lindsay) is a wannabe hard-nosed reporter stuck covering flower shows — and she’s a serious love interest for Jack. “It’s a real love story,” Jordan promises EW. She also adds a female element to the formerly all-boy song “King of New York.”