After a 2½ year run that defied initial expectations to become the fastest-recouping show in Disney Theatrical’s history, Newsies will conclude its Broadway stay on Aug. 24 before embarking on a national tour.
The decision comes as something of a surprise given that the show continues to play to 85 to 95 percent capacity houses at the Nederlander Theatre, and has been in profit since earning back its initial $5 million investment in record time just nine months after opening.
However, unlike other producers who tend to stick it out as long as possible, Disney has a history of shuttering productions like Mary Poppins and Beauty and the Beast before any anticipated decline in box office has time to set in.
With a little north of $100 million in grosses and admissions of just over 1 million to date, Newsies is small potatoes compared to Disney’s unstoppable behemoth The Lion King, which last year was the top-selling show on Broadway and the first in history to cross the $1 billion box office threshold. But the success of Newsies is remarkable nonetheless, given the modest original ambitions of the production.
Retooled out of the 1992 Kenny Ortega film that starred a young Christian Bale, the show was developed in response to numerous licensing requests and was intended as a vehicle for nonprofessional productions. While the movie was a costly flop in theaters, it later built up a devoted following in Disney Channel showings and as a home-entertainment title.
Enthusiastic critical and commercial response to the stage show’s pilot run at New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse in 2011 prompted Disney to try a limited 13-week Broadway engagement. Brisk early box office around the New York opening in March 2012 dictated an immediate extension, and then a subsequent switch to an open-ended run.
“From our first performance, we have been humbled by the spontaneous and genuine outpouring of affection from fans and the theater community alike,” said Thomas Schumacher, president and producer, Disney Theatrical Productions.
Newsies won two Tony Awards in 2012, for the score by composer Alan Menken and lyricist Jack Feldman, and for Christopher Gattelli’s athletic choreography. Adapted for the stage by book writer Harvey Fierstein and directed by Jeff Calhoun, the show supplements the handful of anthemic tunes from the movie with seven new songs.
Inspired by the New York City newsboys strike of 1899, the musical pits a scrappy band of orphans and runaways against such publishing titans of the era as Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst in demanding a fair deal.
The Broadway production will have played 1,005 performances by the time it closes this summer. That makes it the second-longest run in the Nederlander Theatre’s 93-year history, bested only by Rent.
The national tour kicks off in October and is scheduled for 25 cities over 43 weeks during the 2014-15 season. That includes a Los Angeles leg, running March 24 through April 19, 2015, at the Hollywood Pantages.
Disney continues to be represented on Broadway by The Lion King, now in its 17th year, and Aladdin, which opened in March and has been doing stellar business of more than $1 million a week. The latter show earned a Tony this year for featured actor James Monroe Iglehart’s scene-stealing performance as the Genie.