Friday, August 24, 2012

King Of New York

I’m always interested to see translations of stories, whether it be from book to screen or stage, or from screen to stage, or stage to screen. Each medium allows for the audience to experience the story in a new way. There are always changes, whether they be in plot, character, or both.

I particularly like to look at story movements between stage and screen. There’s more of a contest for me as to which I’ll prefer (between book and anything else, I almost always choose the book).

Over the years there has been a lot of back and forth between the two mediums and I’ve seen a number of them. But seeing as I just saw Newsies on Broadway a week ago and am a big fan of both versions, I thought I’d compare some of my favorite characters and relationships from each story to see which one truly is (in my eyes) The King of New York.


Jack Kelly

-          Our young hero. Both the movie and the play show Jack as both a fighter and a dreamer. He’s a little desperate to get away from a lifestyle that’s weighing on him. In the play they go a little bit more into his different escapes. It’s not just dreams of Santa Fe. He also is an artist. This storyline showcases Jack’s wistfulness much like the storyline involving Davey’s family did in the movie. He takes failures to heart. He’s torn between wanting to do what he believes is right and wanting to ensure a better life for himself. There are small changes here and there from screen to stage, but overall, he’s still the character everyone wants to win. Point: Tied

Katherine Plummer

-          Katherine is a character unique to the play. She takes the place of the movie’s Sarah Jacobs and Bryan Denton. Sarah doesn’t exist in the play, which is okay with me. Not because there was anything wrong with the idea of her, but because she was never really given anything to do. She was primarily there for Jack to love. No idea what she wanted out of life or if she had any goals for herself. Katherine, on the other hand, has a life going on before she meets Jack. She's a young reporter who is trying to get the paper to allow her to cover something more than fluff pieces. Sure, Bryan Denton, the former war correspondent, had greater credibility as the character who was covering the strike, but what personal stake did he really have in it? Mostly he just appeared to want to help the boys out of interest and altruism. Katherine is interested in helping the boys, but she also wants to help herself. If she and Jack fall in love, that’s great. But it’s not the sole reason for her existence. Point: Stage

Spot Conlon

-          Spot Conlon may have been one of my absolute favorite characters of the movie. He was just so damn cool. (Plus, he's kind of what my sister and I picture my dad to be like as a child.) The play focuses on slightly different subplots within the overall story than the movie does. As a result, some subplots from the movie are cut. Spot is discussed more in the play than he appears. Point: Screen

Joseph Pulitzer

-          Like Spot, Pulitzer’s scenes are trimmed down in the play. He still looms large as the antagonist, but the audience just doesn’t spend as much time with him. And while he certainly seems like a jerk, I was always partial to Robert DuVall’s slightly manic portrayal. Of course, that might just be because Roomie and I like to yell, “Go home! Go home to your mothers and your fathers! Go home!” when we’re stuck in traffic. Point: Screen



-          Davey and Les’s family doesn’t have a great deal of bearing on the play's storyline, other than their father's injury being the reason they've become newsies. No scenes of Jack wistfully watching their relationships. Because of this Jack in the play has less off the clock time with the other two. They come across more as coworkers who like each other and have a common goal, than the brother-like figures they became in the movie. Point: Screen


-          Here’s where the play gives Jack his “brother.” He and Crutchie are much closer here. Sure, Jack and Crutchie got along in the film. Jack defended him and tried to get him out of the Refuge, but I always felt that Jack would have done as much for any of the Newsies. In the play, Jack and Crutchie have a special bond, with Jack even going so far as to try to talk the other boy into going to Santa Fe with him. It makes Crutchie's eventual stint in the Refuge even sadder. And makes me want to yell "Soak 'em for Crutchie" even more. Point: Stage

Jack/Katherine vs. Jack/Sarah

-          In the movie, Jack was immediately attracted to Sarah and she to him, and it was very sweet. But that’s it. Jack and Katherine’s relationship develops. The audience sees how they challenge and help each other. Ultimately, there’s more to root for. Point: Stage


-          I loved watching all the dancing in the movie, but there’s something kind of incomparable to watching a group of people fly across the stage in unison and knowing that’s it. There are no second take if someone screws up. The show just keeps on going. And again, I must ask, HOW do people go from what looks like a fairly stationary position into a midair flip? As someone who can not even do a cartwheel, it's pure magic to me. Point: Stage

Okay, I could go on like this forever and this is already an obscenely long post. So, I’m calling it.
As of right now, I’m deeming the stage production of Newsies the current King of New York, by a thin margin of four to three.

But, I may have to go see it again. You know….just to make sure.

And maybe to do a little seat dancing.

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