For thousands of kids, mostly homeless and with little chance of an education, scrambling on street corners of cities like New York,as they tried to earn a penny to keep poverty from their door. They hustled newspapers, as energetic and enterprising youth, hoping to be the first one to sell you the latest headlines of the day. This practice dates back to colonial times and no protection like child labor laws existed.
In 1899, giants of the industry decided they deserved more profit and leaders like Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst raised the price these scruffy lads paid for the "paps" and effectively reduced the lads' profit to nothing. The boys led by Jack Kelly, a smart thinking Jim Schubin, and his new friend Davey, an equally savvy Noah Kieserman, devised a plan to form a union and fight the big guys.
This true David and Goliath story birthed a new musical "Newsies" with book by Harvey Fierstein, music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Jack Feldman, and it has been making its own headlines, winning Tony Awards in 2012 for Best Choreography and Best Original Score. Hold on to your reading glasses and run as fast as you can to the campus of the University of Connecticut at Storrs by Sunday, July 16 for the Connecticut Repertory Theatre's sterling production of "Disney's Newsies The Musical" as it marches proudly and defiantly into the Jorgensen Theatre.
"Newsies" centers on child labor practices, when the kids united to change the way the big powers compensated them. In the two weeks the boys refused to sell newspapers, circulation dropped from 360,000 to 125,000 and the kids were victorious in having their voices heard. These boys were often homeless and orphaned. They were not employees and had no one to protect them but themselves. They fearlessly took on the giants and won, even though the newspapers wouldn't let them return unsold goods. initially. Working from early morning often to late in the night, they typically earned 30 cents a day.
Come meet Jack as he gathers his ragamuffin force to protest and finds unexpected support from a reporter named Katherine, a lovely and spirited Paige Smith. With the help of Davey who with his younger brother Les, a ready to fight for the right Atticus L. Burello, is aiding the family when his dad is disabled, the boys are encouraged to "Seize the Day." The police and strikebreakers try to snuff their spirit but, ultimately, Jack's championing of their cause prevails and Pulitzer, a power driven Richard Henry, backs down on his monetary demands. Even Governor Theodore Roosevelt, a justice seeking Nate Healey, rides in to help save the day.
Also deserving of note are Jack's adopted brother Crutchie, a loyal Tyler Jones,
and Medda Larkin, a fiery singing chanteuse Tina Fabrique, who both lend their support to the cause. Director and choreographer Christopher d'Amboise does a super yeoman job in making this production so memorable.
For tickets ($12 to 55), call the Jorgensen Theatre at Storrs, at 860-486-2113 or online at www.crt.uconn.edu. Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m and Sunday at 2 p.m., with an added matinee Wednesday at 2 p.m.
Join Jack and his pals as they carry the banner of truth, justice and the
American way, hitting the streets of 1899 New York City as pint-sized heroes to battle the giants and win the day.