By Max Berlinger
In fact, those are just the things his coworkers have to praise. “He’s a bona fide triple threat,” says Harvey Fierstein, who is responsible for the musical’s new book. “He’s not afraid to fully commit, he’s not self-conscious in that way. He has that thing -- which you can never really put your finger on -- that separates an incredibly talented individual from someone who can become a star.”
Fierstein has distinct memories of the film that inspired his latest show. “I used to play it for my nephews when I would babysit, and they liked it. It had energetic music, but it’s a pretty awful movie,” he says in his signature croak.
This version of Newsies was born when Fierstein casually pitched the idea to his friend -- incidentally, the film’s composer -- Alan Menken: “Alan said, ‘We’ve tried to do the show over the years, but it doesn’t work.’ And I said, ‘Oooh, I love a challenge!’ ”
Fierstein has tinkered with the plot, adding a love interest and using the central Newsboys Strike as a springboard to explore youth-driven protests. When a comparison to the recent Occupy movement is mentioned, he says, “Oh, believe me, it’s not lost on us.”
Still, Newsies purists will be happy to hear that, while the original script received a major overhaul, almost the entire score has been kept intact.
Finishing his lunch and preparing to return to rehearsal, Jordan says, “I know that people are attached to this movie, but there will always be Newsies-the-movie in the exact same form. Why put the exact same thing onstage? Why not experience it in a whole new way?”
Newsies the Musical opens March 29 at the Nederlander Theater in Manhattan.