Nothing is better than when the musical you’ve been dying to see comes to town…especially if you’ve been obsessed with it since 1992. Yep. 1992.
Never heard of Newsies? I’m so sorry. Newsies was a Disney musical movie starring Christian Bale and Bill Pullman about the 1899 newboys strike in New York City (based on a true story that led to labor reform). It was a giant flop. In fact, it’s rumored that Christian Bale’s biggest regret is Newsies! (Say it ain’t so, Christian.)
Like all bad musicals (yeah, I’ve been to Rocky Horror at midnight in a corset, too) it had a huge cult following that lead to the successful rewrite of the musical, which debuted on Broadway in 2011…and proceeded to win a Tony. How did a crap Disney musical turn into a successful Broadway show?
They erased the plot holes and tweaked the music. (Oh, is that all, Heather?) Let me start off by admitting that I have the movie memorized, so I was hesitant about the changes. But I dutifully and super ecstatically bought my tickets and took my friend for her birthday to the Detroit Opera House. All I’m saying — there are only 3 women in the show. The rest? Guys who can dance. IT. WAS. WONDERFUL. ON. THE. EYES.
Holy crap the muscles on these men.
The show was absolutely incredible. It also got me thinking about how to apply the changes that the musical made that took this cult classic movie and made it into something epic (without spoiling the musical).
1. The love interest. In the movie, the love interest is the sister of a supporting character. Yawn. The love interest in the musical is the villian’s daughter. Suddenly, the stakes are higher. The higher the stakes, the more suspense you have, the more page turning your novel is.
2. Better song lyrics. Some of the lyrics in the movie didn’t make a whole lot of sense because they were trying just a little too hard. Remember this with dialogue. Read it out loud to yourself. Ask your friends to say the sentence more naturally. Do whatever you need to do to get rid of that awkward…like this sentence.
3. Three-dimensional characters. How great are three-dimensional characters? In the movie, all our hero could do was sell papers. In the musical, they gave the hero additional talents that not only rounded out his character, but made him more sympathetic to the viewer and got him a happily ever after.
4. Phenomenal dancing aka practice. The dancers literally dance on top of newspapers. Do you know how difficult that must be? They throw stacks of newspapers all over set, never missing. How do they do this? Practice. You dance and dance and dance until you can dance on that newspaper without falling. Translation: You write and write and write until you have the confidence you need to do something epic. It’ll happen. (You can watch a version here. Yes, that is Alex from SYTYCD.)
5. Not always a clean cut ending. We know that romance is supposed to be happily ever after, but it doesn’t have to be perfect. Unlike the movie, the musical does a good job at showing how the villain and hero came to a compromise. It was much more believable that a perfect ending tied with a perfect bow.
6. Making us believe again. It doesn’t matter how you wrote in the past. What matters is that you’re always trying to better yourself. Newsies survived because it was a story line we all connected with (Damn the man, save the Empire anyone?). A good story line will survive the test of time. You don’t need to be a poet, just someone who can tell an honest story.
The journey of Newsies is definitely a journey we can all learn from. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go tap dance around the house to King of New York!
Wishing You Laughter & Good Books,
Bold. Bewitching. Breathtaking.
Author of The Lynch Brothers Series
Be careful what you wish for…
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