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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Newsies is Coming to San Francisco: Paper Boys Have Never Jumped So High

Posted By on Tue, Feb 3, 2015 at 7:49 AM

click to enlarge Original company, North American Tour of NEWSIES. - ©DISNEY. PHOTO BY DEEN VAN MEER.
  • ©Disney. Photo by Deen Van Meer.
  • Original company, North American Tour of NEWSIES.

However unlikely it is that you read the news this morning from a printed page, it's even less likely that it came to you in the hands of an cheeky teenage boy. Though paperboys no longer yell from street corners, stories of their struggle for adequate pay — and their explosive dance moves — are still in high demand.

"Newsies," the Tony Award-winning musical based on the true story of an 1899 newsboy strike in New York City, is coming to the Orpheum Theater. Produced by Disney Theatrical Productions and brought to San Francisco by SHN Theater Company, the show is directed by Jeff Calhoun and choreographed by Christopher Gattelli. Newsies originally flopped as an early-'90s Disney film (remember Christian Bale?), but it was reinvigorated as a Broadway musical in 2011 and went on to earn eight Tony nominations.

Though its production by Disney ensures a family-friendly show, "Newsies" tackles themes that are surprisingly current and complex. Set in turn-of-the-last-century New York City, "Newsies" follows Jack Kelly (played by Dan DeLuca), the charismatic leader of a ragged band of teenaged newsies. Kelly rallies his peers from across the city to take on publishing bosses Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst, who have raised distribution prices at the newsies' expense.

Kelly's character is loosely based on real-life newsboy Kid Blink — named for his blindness in one eye — who organized orphan and runaway newsies on a two-week-long strike against newspaper publishers, including Pulitzer and Hearst. The demonstrations, which halted Brooklyn Bridge traffic for days and reduced New York World circulation by half, became known as the Newsboy Strike of 1899. The newsies' protests successfully raised wages and inspired other strikes around the country.

On stage, "Newsies" infuses the story with spirited song and dance. The leaps and turns of Gattelli's Tony-winning choreography demand the highest levels of talent from the cast. "These are the best dancers in the country," director Jeff Calhoun told SHN's magazine in January. The show has even inspired its own workout program so that you, too, can dance like a 19th century paperboy.

Among the performers is Alameda native Julian DeGuzman. "I decided that performing on Broadway was my goal," he said. "So I had to leave the sunshine and comfort of home for the bright lights of New York to make it happen." Now DeGuzman has the chance to perform for his home crowd.

How did a '90s flop turn into an acclaimed musical that now approaches 700 performances? The cast and crew highlight the enduring resonance and accessibility of the story.

"It's about empowering kids to take responsibility for making the world a better place," said Calhoun. "Newsies isn't a fairy tale, but the whole family will enjoy it."

"Newsies" runs February 17 to March 15, and tickets can be purchased through the SHN's website. Running time is 2 hours and 30 minutes, including a 15-minute intermission. 
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Sarah Stodder

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