It’s time to carry the banner on your stage with Disney’s Newsies!
Set in turn-of-the century New York City, Newsies is the rousing tale of Jack Kelly, a charismatic newsboy and leader of a band of teenaged “newsies.” When titans of publishing raise distribution prices at the newsboys’ expense, Jack rallies newsies from across the city to strike against the unfair conditions and fight for what’s right.
BASED ON A TRUE STORY Newsies is based on the real-life Newsboys Strike of 1899. The New York newsies – boys and girls who sold newspapers on the street – went up against two newspaper publishers, Joseph Pulitzer of the New York World and William Randolph Hearst of the New York Journal, to fight for the chance to earn a livable wage. The Spanish-American War made New Yorkers hungry for headlines, and circulation boomed as a result. Once the war ended, people were less inclined to buy newspapers – war was bad for the world, but great for the newspaper business. The strike was the result of the newspaper publishers refusing to lower the newsies’ cost-per-paper back down to the pre- war prices. The newsies were not willing to pay more for their papers to make up for a lack of headlines, so they decided to strike – their goal was to make the newspaper tycoons treat them as legitimate members of the business.
Newsies sell their “papes.” Photo by Alice Austen (1896) – Not Robby Njos
Striking for two weeks, from July 20 to August 2, 1899, the newsies eventually came to a compromise with the publishers: The price would stay the same, but the publishers would buy back any papers that the newsies couldn’t sell. This was a significant moment in history: It was one of the first strikes carried out by children and it ended in compromise. The kids succeeded!
Selling newspapers was a lucrative and freeing enterprise for young children at the turn of the 20th century. The newsies of New York City were popularly admired as “little merchants,” for unlike children working in factories, the newsies were free to set their own hours and determine how many papers they would sell each day. However, the newspaper controlled the wholesale price and kids commonly worked up to 14 hours per day to make enough money to survive. It wasn’t unusual for newsies to exaggerate the headlines or make up sad stories about themselves to sell more papers. They would often fumble and stall while making change in the hopes that the customer would get impatient and let them keep the difference.
While there were newsgirls as well as newsboys, they were less common. One reason for this is that localities that had age limits for labor often required that working girls be older than working boys. In some states, girls had to be 16 to sell newspapers but boys only had to be 10. Newsies were most frequently between 11 and 15 years old, and a large portion of urban children worked as newsies at some point, even if just temporarily. Newsies came from nearly every ethnic group, so it was class that most defined them; the vast majority came from working class families that did not control their own businesses.
Based on the 1992 motion picture and inspired by a true story, Newsies features a Tony Award- winning score by Alan Menken (Little Shop of Horrors, Sister Act) and Jack Feldman and a book by Tony Award winner Harvey Fierstein (Kinky Boots). Featuring the now classic songs “Carrying the Banner,” “Seize the Day,” and “Santa Fe,” Newsies is packed with non-stop thrills, epic choreography, and a timeless message, perfect for the whole family and every audience. Mark your calendars now! The show runs in November, 2018!
The production at Moorhead High school will be lead by the artistic team of Rebecca Meyer-Larson (Director), Annie Richards (Music Director), and choreographer to the stars, Meleah LePlante. Along with a skilled team of designers, this show is sure to be a hit.