“Newsies,” the modestly-scaled stage musical that surprised Disney Theatrical Prods. by finding a foothold on Broadway, will end its Main Stem run Aug. 24 after several months of gradually softening sales.
The musical, which began performances at the Nederlander Theater in March 2012, will have played about two and a half years. That’s not long when compared to Disney Theatrical’s “The Lion King,” 16 years old and counting, or to the company’s “Beauty and the Beast,” which held its spot on the Rialto for 13 years. But “Newsies” will nonetheless be counted as a win in the eyes of Disney Theatrical execs, who originally developed the production with a eye toward its licensing potential in the regional, stock and amateur markets.
The tuner has grossed some $100 million at the Broadway box office, as opposed to the $3 million earned by the flop movie-musical that inspired it.
Although the original film version of “Newsies” tanked on the bigscreen in 1992, it has since accumulated a cult following among musical fans and theater avids. Disney Theatrical, deeply entrenched in the legit licensing industry thanks to its catalog of high-profile and family-friendly properties, moved ahead with the stage version of “Newsies” after persistent requests from licensees convinced them of the demand for it.
The company tapped scribe Harvey Fierstein (“Kinky Boots”) to collaborate with the film’s original songwriter Alan Menken in beefing up the tuner for a full, two-act stage incarnation, with the initial plan of launching the licensing property in a modestly-scaled production that could serve as a framework for future stagings. The world premiere at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, N.J. opened in September 2011, with a set designed to be easily licensed and transported once the show finished its run there.
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But that engagement proved successful enough at the box office to warrant thinking bigger. In addition, the title scored unexpected support from New York critics, many of whom made the easy trip across the river to review the show.
With all that in mind, Disney Theatrical booked the production into the Nederlander Theater for what was originally announced as a limited run but soon became open-ended when the title began to log consistently strong sales. In spring 2012 the production notched eight Tony noms and scored two, one for the score by Menken and lyricist Jack Feldman and one for Christopher Gatelli’s choreography. The show recouped its relatively low capitalization costs before the end of that year.
In recent months, B.O. at “Newsies” has remained generally healthy but nonetheless registered a trickling decline that suggests momentum is gradually waning. The production will play through the end of the summer, in order to take advantage of one last season of tourist biz.
Once the Main Stem run wraps, “Newsies” hits the road in a national tour in October 2014.
Following the spring opening of “Aladdin” — which quickly carved out a spot for itself on the Rialto’s Top 10 — Disney Theatrical’s upcoming slate includes their co-production of “Shakespeare in Love,” beginning a West End run in July, and a revised stage version of 1996 animated film “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” launching at the La Jolla Playhouse this fall.