By Emily Cole
In an age where so many forms of media can be accessed by a small square in your pocket, it is hard to imagine a world in which a single newspaper could control an entire city. However, such was the case many years ago when print was the only source of media available. Recently, Disney decided to combine these two realities into “Newsies Live!”, an experience where viewers could watch a professional recording of a performance of the musical “Newsies” from recliner seats in hundreds of movie theaters across the country.
“Newsies” is based on the Newsboys’ strike of 1899. The show tells the story of Jack Kelly, a smart and charismatic 17-year-old boy living on the streets of New York City and working as a newsie for “The World”, the newspaper owned by Joseph Pulitzer and one of the few major newspapers controlling New York City. When Pulitzer decides to raise the prices of newspapers for the newsies, Kelly leads a strike against the price raise, and the story goes from there. The strong plot, accompanied by compelling characters and brilliant musical numbers, all comes together for a truly beautiful modern musical about a very not modern story.
Bringing live musical theater to movie theaters is a unique idea and certainly comes with many different perks and drawbacks. One great advantage of this event is accessibility. Most fans of musical theater can never actually see shows live due to travel and ticket costs. This leads many fans to find “bootlegs,” or illegally recorded versions of live shows. These recordings are not only, as previously stated illegal, but they are also unfair to the usually hundreds of people who have worked hard on the show. By bringing a professionally-recording of “Newsies” to theaters around the country, it makes the show accessible and while also being legal and paying the proper respects the large creative team. Teresa Ellen Easterbrooks and Zoe Kennard, both class of 2019, went to the Saturday screening at the Fenway Regal theater and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
“I enjoyed getting to see a Broadway show without the travel and high expense involved in actually going to Broadway. I was able to walk five minutes from my dorm, sit in a comfortable seat, and see the show, which is amazing,” remarked Kennard.
She also commented on the quality of the recording, saying, “Since it was filmed, I got a much clearer, closer view of the actors than I would have gotten in any seat in the theater.”
Unlike any bootleg or actually sitting in a theater, this version was professionally recorded, meaning the sound quality was stellar and the cameras were able to capture close-ups of the actors that could not have been seen otherwise. And with a show like “Newsies” with remarkable actors such as Jeremy Jordan playing Jack Kelly, being able to clearly see the powerful facial expressions adds an entirely new level to the experience. Overall, the combination of the close location and inexpensive ticket with the high quality of the recording made for a stunning and accessible experience.
That being said, nothing can be considered perfect. It was not the true experience of seeing a live show. Seeing a live theater performance, even with high quality cameras and sound equipment, can never be fully captured. Additionally, in many scenes the director used close-ups that while allowing to clearly see the actors’ faces, also directed what the audience saw.
“Sometimes the shots chosen/changing shots took away from the experience, where at an actual show you could see the whole stage all the time,” Easterbrooks observed. Other than those small details, the experience was entirely enjoyable, and for a theater fan with limited funds, the closest runner up to Broadway one could find.
“Newsies Live!” will have a final performance on Wednesday, Feb 22 nationwide at 7 p.m. The closest locations will be the Regal Fenway down the street from the residence campus or the AMC Loews in downtown Boston. For those available that evening, it is a highly recommended experience.