Disney stage musical opens in March

Stop the presses: The stage tuner version of “Newsies” has booked a limited run at Broadway’s Nederlander Theater beginning in March.

The Main Stem move has seemed a strong possibility ever since the show, with a score by Alan Menken and Jack Feldman and book by Harvey Fierstein, earned critical plaudits in a September world preem at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, N.J. Disney Theatrical Prods. will produce the Broadway transfer, set to run 101 perfs.

Developed by Disney in response to demand from regional, stock and amateur theaters, tuner hadn’t initially been aimed at the Rialto. Plan was to develop a stage version for licensing to the orgs clamoring for the title, and then launch the adaptation with a modestly-scaled production that could serve as a licensable blueprint for future stagings.

The unit set for the Paper Mill incarnation was designed and constructed with the idea that it, too, could be licensed and easily transported. Set will make the move to the Nederlander along with the show.

Given the production’s glowing notices, it’s an unusual move to book the show for a limited time rather than a more traditional open-ended run. According to Thomas Schumacher, Disney Theatrical’s producer and prexy, he’s sticking to the plan to get the title out quickly to the legit troupes that want to license it, and he expects the Broadway stint to yield hefty branding benefits.

“By having been on Broadway, it positions us so much better to do well with licensing,” he said.

Still, he didn’t entirely rule out the possibility of keeping the show on Broadway longer, should response warrant.

Based on the 1992 movie musical, “Newsies” centers on a newsboy who organizes an army of ragamuffins in an 1899 strike against big-name publishers. Pic’s original songwriting duo of Menken and Feldman augment the original score with new tunes, while Fierstein bases his script on the screenplay by Bob Tzudiker and Noni White.

Musical is helmed by Jeff Calhoun, who’s directed a number of Disney Theatrical outings including “High School Musical,” and choreographed by Christopher Gatelli. Casting for the show has not yet been set — and includes one prominent question mark, in that the lead in the Paper Mill incarnation, Jeremy Jordan, is already appearing on Broadway in the previewing new tuner “Bonnie and Clyde” (also helmed by Calhoun).

“Newsies” operates on a smaller scale than the megabudget tuners (“The Lion King,” “Mary Poppins”) with which Disney Theatrical is more often associated. Company’s policy is to keep mum about producing costs, but it’s said the Broadway transfer is capitalized for less than $5 million.

Tuner won’t be the only Disney property to land on the Main Stem this season. The Peter Pan prequel “Peter and the Starcatcher,” on which Disney Theatrical is a co-producer, is also targeting a spring berth.

“Newsies” begins previews March 15 ahead of a March 29 opening at the Nederlander.

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