A version of this story was originally published February 1, 2017.
In 1899, the streets of New York City echoed with the voices of newsies, and in 2016, the walls of the Pantages resounded with the screaming cheers of fansies.
On Sunday, September 11, 2016, a line wrapped the side of the Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles, fans waiting for a chance to get a coveted seat inside the almost 3,000-seat venue to see the performance of Newsies that would be captured for cinematic release.
Entering the theatre were many familiar faces from New York City’s theatre circuit. Tony-nominated director Michael Arden sat in the orchestra, Sally Struthers snapped selfies with Gilmore Girls fans, and Krysta Rodriguez chatted with friends. Tony Award winner for his choreography for Newsies, Christopher Gattelli socialized in the lobby, and lyricist Jack Feldman settled in the orchestra.
Fansies came to California from across the country and across the street for the event. The Coulson sisters, Annie and Ella, traveled from Maryland to see the show for the 14th time, and Los Angeles resident Emily Killian drove a few blocks to see the theatrical production for the first time.
Newsies director Jeff Calhoun and President of the Disney Theatrical Group Thomas Schumacher greeted the audience. “This show only exists because of what we affectionately call the fansies,” Shumacher said to a roaring crowd.
Today, 2.7 million fans had seen either the Broadway or touring production of Newsies. Not bad for a show that was only supposed to have a limited run at Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey—with no plans beyond the regional engagement.
“We’ve reunited nine original cast members from Broadway tonight; it’s going to be a very emotional night,” Calhoun remarked. “This is crazy for this production—we have a total of 40 actors in the cast of Newsies tonight! To put that into perspective there are usually only 28. Also, I have to give a shout out; we have one actor who has done more performances of Newsies than any other actor. He plays [Don] Seitz; his name is Mark Aldrich, and tonight will be his 1,548th performance.”
After taping “reaction shots,” the audience waited patiently in their seats for the 11-camera setup to complete and for the actors to take the stage.
When the orchestra hit the first few notes of the overture, the audience erupted. Onstage, the chemistry between actors seemed to have grown with their offstage friendships.
Jeremy Jordan didn’t miss a beat in his reprisal of his Tony-nominated performance alongside original leading lady, Kara Lindsay. Lindsay didn’t think she would ever be stepping into the role again and donated her Katherine shoes to raise money at the BC/EFA Flea Market. “We didn’t think that this would happen! But it’s funny, Newsies has been a multitude of surprises because when we were at Paper Mill, we never thought it would come to Broadway, and it was a surprise when it came. It was supposed to be a limited run, and, surprise, it got extended, and then surprise, it won Tony Awards, and [now] surprise, we’re making a movie!” Another surprise: Andrew Keenan-Bolger sang “Letters from the Refuge,” Crutchie’s newly added song.
Newsies was as electric and magical as it had ever been. Screenwriters of the original 1992 movie of the same name, Bob Tzudiker and Noni White beamed with pride. “[Tonight] was really one of the most magnificent nights,” White said and hoped that audiences walked away knowing “each of us can make a difference in the world by not standing idly by.” Tzudiker added, “It’s about empowerment and people seem to get that. The dancing is astounding and somehow communicates that all.”
After the show, original Spot Conlon Tommy Bracco shared his thoughts on the evening. His entrance sparked one of the loudest cheers of the evening. “Tonight was so many emotions,” he said. “This is probably the last time that I’ll be doing Newsies, and that hit me. I started to think back to when I got the call that I was doing Paper Mill, and I was so excited. I had no idea all the dreams that Newsies would make come true for me at that time. … We had to fight for our place, and we did, and now we made a movie and it will live on forever. As the saying goes ‘Newsies Forever,’ and tonight was a testament to that.”