Everyone got your pop and chips? Finished the crinkly stuff before the lights go down? Okay, good. For those coming in late, we just covered Act One, which ended with Jack breaking down in an agony of guilt and grief over leading the newsies into a fight he doesn’t think they can win. Wow, how uplifting right? Don’t worry, things are looking up.
King of New York. “I gotta be either dead or dreaming.”
The newsboys are down in the dumps since Crutchie got dragged off to the Refuge (kiddie jail) and Jack’s vanished off to part or parts unknown, but never fear—Katherine Plumber, Girl Reporter is here! And with her, she’s got the article she wrote about their cause, which is spreading all across the city. Led by Katherine and David (de facto leaders with Jack missing) the boys sing and dance about how they may be forgotten tomorrow, but right now, they’re on top of the world and the tip of everyone’s tongue. This song was a last-minute addition to the original movie, and was nominated for a Razzie that year. Now it’s being performed at the Macy’s Parade. How do you like us NOW, Razzie Committee of 1992? (I’m a bit of a sore winner.)
One thing that stands out to me listening to this is how small some of the wishes are, as the boys sing about what they want now that they’re kings of the city. You’d think they would want millions of dollars and a brand-new car—some do—but others want tiny things like their own bed or a sandwich. It really does drive home how little these kids live on, and the tiny things they dream about to make it from day to day. And for Katherine’s part, what is she dreaming of? “A regular beat for the star reporter!” One of the best things about this number—aside from the infectious tap-dancing—is watching everyone sing the praises of Katherine, who only days ago was subject to her editor’s ridicule for trying to make it in a man’s world. The times, they really are a-changing.
Watch What Happens (Reprise). “We’re doing something no one’s even tried—and yes, we’re terrified.”
Jack is still stewing over what he sees as his failure to protect the others, so David and Katherine (with David’s brother Les in tow) show up to convince him otherwise. They’re more ahead than Jack thinks, David points out—why would Pultizer be panicking and sending out strikebreakers if he didn’t recognize that they were a threat? (Ben Fankhauser’s “thank you God!” when Jack finally catches on might be one of the funniest things on the cast recording.)
Now a proper team, Jack agrees to go back into the fray—”’cause Humpty Dumpty is about to crack.”
The Bottom Line (Reprise). “Lucky for them, all but one got away—they might not be so lucky tonight.”
Jack and the others really do have Pultizer running scared as they plan a rally at Medda’s theatre. So scared, in fact, that Pulitzer yanks Jack into his office for a “chat,” promising to bring the full force of the New York police department down on them if he doesn’t call off the strike and hitting Jack right where it hurts by threatening the kids he feels responsible for. And as a trump card, he produces Katherine—literally, as it turns out she’s his estranged daughter who writes for a rival paper under an assumed name. Womp. “Too bad you’ve no family,” Pultizer sings, “but you can’t have mine.” It’s short, but it does what it’s supposed to—reinforces how much danger Jack is in, and shows how far Pulitzer is willing to go.
Brooklyn’s Here. “Strikes ain’t fun, but they sure is exciting!”
Before we plunge back into the story proper, Menken and Fierstein have given us a little break from the serious business with “Brooklyn’s Here.” In the original movie, there was a sort of running joke/subplot about how the Brooklyn newsies terrify all the other burroughs because their leader, Spot Conlon, shanked a guy or something. (Well they didn’t actually say that, because it’s Disney.) With this number, the Brooklyn kids—along with the Richmond, Bronx, Flushing, and Woodside newsies—arrive in Manhattan for the rally and to back up their fellows. It’s a fun little marching song (“We’re from! Brooklyn! We are! Newsies!”) as they band together and promise to beat back the strikebreakers.
Something To Believe In. “I have something to believe in, now that I know you believe in me.”
Jack, threatened by Pultizer and believing that Katherine’s betrayed them, flees to his roof again, but she’s not letting him go that easily. What follows (well, after some argument) is the requisite love song, as they sing that their relationship gives them each strength and purpose to keep on fighting. This song replaces a number called “Then I See You Again” from the Paper Mill run, which I do miss, if for nothing besides the line “Then I see you again, and it’s like I’m protected,” from Jack. This song is definitely more polished and smooth, and even a bit more generalized—Jack’s confession that he feels scared by the enormity of what they’re doing is cut, as is Katherine’s affirmation that Jack is why she’s fighting so hard for this, but it’s a good song all the same. There’s more emphasis on the uncertainty of their future—Jack still plans on leaving for Santa Fe when the strike over—and so they’re concentrating more on the present instead of looking forward. (The reiteration of “one night may be forever” is making me wonder if they didn’t get up to some distinctly non-Disneyish things between scenes.) I am especially glad that they kept the preceeding dialogue between Jack and Katherine where she promises she’d punch him in the face if she were a boy, and he responds “don’t let that stop you! Lay one on me!” and she grabs his face and uh. Lays on on him. Get it, girl!
Once and For All. “They think they’re running this town, but this town will shut down without us.”
If “Watch What Happens” is my favorite addition to the show, “Once and For All” is my favorite movie original-turned-showtune. With Jack back in the game, the newsies—once again led by Jack, Katherine, and David—gather together to distribute the article Katherine wrote about them. One problem—none of the papers will print it. So they hijack an old printing press that Pulitzer left in his cellar, and make their own paper: The Newsies Banner.
This song is the culmination of a theme the musical and movie have pushed all through the story—the value of being able to tell your own story and control the way the public views you. It was talked about in “The World Will Know” (“The things we do today will be tomorrow’s news”) and “King of New York” (“Snap one picture, you’re the king of New York!”), and this is where it really gets put to the test. Pulitzer uses his papers against them? Well then they’ll make their own voices heard. I especially love the angry, pounding beat to this, almost like a heartbeat, and the way Jack’s quiet first verse (“there’s change coming, once and for all”) is repeated and soars upwards near the end (“a new world is coming for you”). At the same time, this is when the strike really extends to start covering labor inequity all over the city—”This is for kids shining shoes in the street with no shoes on their feet every day/This is for guys sweating blood in the shops while the bosses and cops look away.” It gives me chills every time.
Finale. “Don’t take much to be a dreamer—all you do is close your eyes.”
With the strike over, Jack is ready to pack up and skip town, but David, Katherine, and Crutchie (now freed from the Refuge) aren’t quite ready to let him go without a fight. They’re family now, they point out, but it’s Katherine who ultimately convinces him to stay. “Wherever you go, I’ll be right by your side” she promises, and Jack—who’s spent all this time convinced he won’t lose anything if he leaves—realizes that the family he’s built in the strike is more important and worth fighting for than becoming a cowboy. And so stay he does, and the other newsies celebrate by reprising their earlier numbers—specifically “Carrying the Banner” and “King of New York.” The world won’t change overnight, but with Jack and his newfound family to keep fighting for it, they might see a change coming. Once and for all.
Newsies is running at the Nederlander Theatre in New York until August 19th. You can follow the production on Twitter and Tumblr, as well at their Official Site. The soundtrack can be bought on iTunes.