Movie Review: Newsies the Musical

As a counterpoint to yesterday’s review of La La Land, I thought I’d write up my experience watching the Broadway version of Newsies, filmed and available now on Netflix. I watched the movie a long long time ago in the theater, and I remember making fun of it a fair bit back then, but also kind of liking it. (I was 14. Cut me some slack. And hey–it starred Christian Bale! When I mentioned that to Tomas, he thought it was very strange that Batman was in a movie musical when he was eighteen. That’s actually a movie I’d like to see.)

I’ve been a bit leery about all the Broadway adaptations of movies coming down the pike, and the ones I’ve watched or listened to have been . . . mixed. I enjoyed the music for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and liked the Shrek musical that’s on Netflix now, but each time I watched one, I couldn’t help wishing I was watching something more original. Mean Girls is now starting on Broadway. Mean Girls? And there was School of Rock, and Kinky Boots, and any number of other movies. From what I’ve read, most of them are a fair bit of fun, so why do I have this hangup of wanting to see them? I get that musicals have to make money, and it’s much easier to market an adaptation of a familiar movie than it is to market a new musical no one’s heard of, but still . . .

I’d rather have fresh material than Legally Blonde. Because I have a hard time believing these Broadway adaptations are anything other than cash grabs. It’s not like someone watched the movie and said, “I could do so many awesome things with that, if it were just on Broadway.” In some cases, I’m sure that’s the case, but in most, it’s all about the money.

All that aside, let’s talk about Newsies, which at least was a musical to begin with, so it feels (somehow) less gimmicky to me. I like movie musicals for one thing, and Broadway musicals for another. There’s just so much energy involved in a live production that can’t be captures in a movie adaptation. The movie can be much more refined and convey emotion with a lighter touch, but it’s bound to be a different beast.

The filmed version of Newsies shows this very well. As far as productions go, it was fantastic. The set design is well executed, and the dance numbers were spectacular. The songs are what they are. If you liked them in the movie, you’ll still like them here. Really, my main complaint about the production was the camerawork. They kept going for tight shots, and that came at the expense of showing the stage as a whole. Some closeups are fine, but I kept wanting them to pan out so I could see more of what was going on.

Of course, I was watching it on a 100 inch screen, so perhaps that has something to do with it . . .

In any case, I found it genuinely moving, and I highly recommend watching it. Fun for the whole family. Even Tomas enjoyed it, for the most part, and that’s saying something. I gave it a 9/10 for entirely different reasons that La La Land got the same score. Newsies was held back because it wasn’t the live version. The cameras hurt it.

So where does this leave me? Should I just get over my hangup with Broadway adaptations of films? What say you? And are there any other solid musicals on Netflix I should check out?

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