On a hot, steamy, New York summer night in July 1899, with the symbolic act of overturning a distribution wagon, thousands of corner newsboys and newsgirls went on strike against the two largest newspapers in the country: Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World and William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal. Lasting about two weeks, mobs of these kids filled the streets of Manhattan and prevented circulation of the papers.
The year prior, news about the Spanish-American War had increased sales of papers, and several publishers raised the prices they charged newsies from 50¢ to 60¢ for a 100-paper bundle. With the end of the war and the return to regular circulation rates, Pulitzer and Hearst were holdouts on returning to the pre-war prices.
Most newsies were orphans, runaways, or homeless, or were children from poor immigrant families who sold papers in the mornings, afternoons, and evenings to scrape together meager earnings for survival. They lived hard, often violent lives and were far from the plucky, spirited, and ambitious entrepreneurs often depicted.
Nevertheless, this band of the city’s poorest, scrappiest residents took on two of the country’s most famous and wealthy men and won! Most importantly, a bright light was focused on the child labor crisis in our country and the desperate need for reform.
Disney has taken these events and woven a story that is sure to inspire us all. It has been such a joy to navigate the tale of these newsies with this impressive cast of enthusiastic, talented, earnest, and disciplined ladies and gentlemen.
Newsies is an incredibly demanding show that requires a tremendous amount of hard work. It’s always the Director or Choreographer’s job to say, “Let’s do that one more time!” Usually that exclamation is followed by murmured groans and dramatic pleas for mercy. This cast is the exception to that rule. I can’t wait for audiences to pour into the theatre and experience these performers as they dance, sing, and act their way into your hearts. Seize the day, Fort Wayne, and join us as we take you on a journey back to 1899 with the real Kings of New York!
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