Seizing the Day - Disney's NEWSIES Comes to Orange County

Warning: This post is going to be super newsy (see what I did there?) with lots of photos of our thoughts and experiences about Disney's NEWSIES on Tour. You NEWSIES fans will totally appreciate this.

©Disney - Photo by Deen van Meer

©Disney - Photo by Deen van Meer

Back in 1992 when the Disney film, 'Newsies' was released in theaters, we saw the movie with the kids. All of us were kind of blown away. Great story. Awesome music. But so different from other films. But right there was where our love affair began. 

I guess that's not true of everyone because the film flopped commercially. But those songs! And those adorable dancing news boys had captured our hearts in an almost cultish way. I admit it, we love the Newsies. Or as the Newsies fanbase is known, we were 'Fansies.' (I don't really like how that sounds, either, but that's not important right now.)

Amy and I right before curtain.

Amy and I right before curtain.

The other night, my daughter Amy and I went to see the stage show of Disney's Newsies as guests of The Segerstrom Center for the Arts here in Orange County

They had us from the very first note of the very first song. How do I describe the excitement of seeing Newsies come to life? All I have is superlatives. Amazing! Thrilling! Hilarious! Magnificent! Exciting! 

©Disney - Photo by Deen van Meer

©Disney - Photo by Deen van Meer

I decided that NEWSIES was a type of ballet, but a thousand times more fun and it would have been impossible to fall asleep. There. I said it.

NEWSIES, the new American musical, features a Tony Award® -winning score with music by eight-time Academy Award® winner Alan Menken and lyrics by Jack Feldman, a book by four-time Tony Award® winner Harvey Fierstein and is produced by Disney Theatrical Productions, NEWSIES is directed by Tony nominee Jeff Calhoun and choreographed by Christopher Gattelli, who won a 2012 Tony Award® for his work.
The entire creative team has reunited to bring the break-out smash musical to audiences across North America. When it opened on March 29, 2012 NEWSIES was intended for a Broadway run of just 101 performances.
The show’s fiercely devoted fans had other ideas, however; they propelled the show to a run of 1,005 performances, attendance of more than 1 million and a gross of over $100M. While on Broadway, NEWSIES set and broke seven Nederlander Theatre house records and became the highest-grossing show from the 2011-12 Broadway season.
The show received 23 major theatrical nominations – including eight Tony Award nods – and won Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards for Score and Choreography.

Segerstrom Center for the Arts was also very gracious in providing us with a backstage tour of the costumes and sets. Believe me when I tell you that this former Theater Geek Mom was out-of-her-skin excited to see the props, sets, and costumes up close and personal. 

Backstage at SCFTA. photo Marta Darby

Backstage at SCFTA. photo Marta Darby

Backstage at SCFTA. photo Marta Darby

Backstage at SCFTA. photo Marta Darby

The Wardrobe Supervisor for the Newsies Touring Company, Gillian Austin showed us the costumes for the show and gave us a demonstration of how they "grunge" up the Newsies every night for their performances. Guys, that's a REAL job! 

Gillian Austin shows us the detailing in the costumes. Backstage at SCFTA. photo Marta Darby

Gillian Austin shows us the detailing in the costumes. Backstage at SCFTA. photo Marta Darby

I had Amy and Jon with me and we all decided that it would be the Best Job Ever to get to dress talented people for a living and make their clothes faux-dirty. Of course, it absolutely takes skills to design and maintain 150 costumes, not to mention the shoes and tap shoes for the entire cast. Still, Best Job Ever. Am I right?

Each cast member has multiple pairs of dancing and tap shoes. photo by Amy Hohneker

Each cast member has multiple pairs of dancing and tap shoes. photo by Amy Hohneker

Much to our delight, we got to visit the stage itself. Having seen the show the night before, we could appreciate the brilliant design because we had seen it in action. 

Production Stage Manager Jeff Norman explaining how the towers work. photo Amy Hohneker

Production Stage Manager Jeff Norman explaining how the towers work. photo Amy Hohneker

Jeff Norman, the Production Stage Manager walked us onto that amazing and elaborate stage set up. Besides the "hey-guys-we're-standing-on-the-SCFTA-stage" moment, we were seriously blown away by the intricacies of such an imaginative set. 

Tobin Ost’s imposing three level set rises over 24 feet high and features three completely automated towers. Built of steel and aluminum, it weighs seven and a half tons. Separately or in unison, its three towers can move 14 feet up and down stage, revolve 350 degrees and re-configure to create – among the show’s many locations – tenement fire escapes, a theatre’s backstage and the Brooklyn Bridge. The cast climbs 75 steps to reach the set’s nine distinct playing areas. 
Amy and I going all selfie-fangirly on the SCFTA stage.

Amy and I going all selfie-fangirly on the SCFTA stage.

The props were beautiful in their attention to perfect detail.

Backstage at SCFTA. photo Marta Darby

Backstage at SCFTA. photo Marta Darby

Backstage at SCFTA. photo Marta Darby

Backstage at SCFTA. photo Marta Darby

Backstage at SCFTA. photo Marta Darby

Backstage at SCFTA. photo Marta Darby

Backstage at SCFTA. photo Marta Darby

Backstage at SCFTA. photo Marta Darby

But it was the incredible detail on the bundles of newspapers that stopped us in our tracks. 

There are approximately 150 newspapers used every performance, specifically printed with the headline “Trolley Strike Enters Third Week.” These papers are carefully cared for, to avoid tearing, so they can be used for multiple performances.
The 11 newspaper bundles at the newsstand and in the fight scene are foam-filled with a paper outer layer, to avoid injury and reduce the amount of paper used in the show.
The 18 “Newsie Banner” bundles are composed of 300 pages of legal paper glued together and covered with contact paper to avoid tearing as they are tossed around the stage.
Backstage at SCFTA. photo Marta Darby

Backstage at SCFTA. photo Marta Darby

©Disney - Photo by Deen van Meer

©Disney - Photo by Deen van Meer

The highlight of our backstage tour was getting to meet two of the cast members, Joey Barreiro who plays 'Jack Kelly,' and Morgan Keene who plays 'Katherine.' 

Morgan Keene and Joey Barreiro with Jon Darby

Morgan Keene and Joey Barreiro with Jon Darby

The night before we had noted what great chemistry these two had together on stage. We wondered,

  • "Are they friends?"
  • "Had they grown up with Newsies and always wanted to be in the show?" 
  • "What did they have in common with their characters?"
  • "Are all those touring Newsies a tight knit group?"
  • "What's it like to share the stage with so many boys?"
  • "Was there any advice they wish they'd had when they started?"
  • "Did Joey one day hope to play Batman?"

(I know. I know. That last question was a personal geeky one because Christian Bale who went on to be Batman started with the role of Jack Kelly in the original Newsies movie, but that's not important right now.) Their answers (including the Batman question) are in the interview below.

ENJOY!

Also, when I introduced myself and my kids to Morgan and Joey and mentioned that we represented 'My Big Fat Cuban Family,' they looked at each other meaningfully and Joey told us that he is Cuban. "Well, half Cuban, but I don't speak Spanish." 

That's okay, mijo. Come here. 

Because...Cuban.

Because...Cuban.

We're so grateful to the Segerstrom Center for the Arts for the wonderful opportunity to see the NEWSIES show and enjoy the backstage tour. The opinions are completely my own.

If you live close to the Orange County area, don't miss Disney's NEWSIES. Tell them Marta sent you. 

• In Orange County, NEWSIES will play Tuesdays through Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 2:00 & 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 1:00 & 6:30 p.m.
Tickets for NEWSIES start at $25 and may be purchased online at SCFTA.org, the Box Office at 600 Town Center Drive in Costa Mesa or by calling (714) 556-2787.
For inquiries about group tickets for 10 or more, call the Group Services office at (714) 755-0236. The 2 p.m. performance on Saturday, May 28, 2016 will include audio description, open captioning and sign-language interpretation.