Disney’s Newsies The Musical Original Cast Recording – CD Review

Disney’s Newsies The Musical Original Cast Recording

by Cooper McHatton

Today is Alan Menken’s birthday. Who’s Alan Menken? Oh, he’s just the guy who made all those songs we all know and love from just about every big animated Disney film since I’ve been alive…Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, Pocahontas, Hercules, Beauty and the Beast, Tangled. So, in honor of his birthday I thought I’d review one of his current Broadway soundtracks: The new Disney stage production of Newsies, currently running at the Nederlander Theatre in New York.

Newsies is based on the true story about the New York City newsboy strike of 1899 — a rich story of young boys in hard times being taken advantage of by big business, and rising up to make their situations better. Of course, what makes it for me is that it’s a musical. I am a sucker for a great musical. My favorite of all time is How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (Jeff here, I can personally vouch for this — Cooper is wacko for that one). Disney’s art/color designer, Mary Blair (think Small World) added her magic to a finely tuned hilarious look at 1960s business, and I admit it is my measuring stick for every other musical.

The Newsies soundtrack doesn’t disappoint and makes me want to hop on a red-eye flight cross-country to catch this production on Broadway (or at least, and more realistically, rent the original 1992 Newsies Disney movie starring a young pre-Dark Knight Christian Bale from Netflix). The storytelling, the lush settings, and the complicated issues tackled through song make the soundtrack a success. From meaningful ballads to those big over-the-top scene changing numbers, each song tells a story and moves the plot along with ease.

I was left wondering why the music didn’t feel like the turn-of-the-20th-century period piece that it was. With the possible exception of “That’s Rich,” all of the big Broadway numbers sound as if they could have taken place in any decade. It would have been more believable, from a musical standpoint, if the music had a turn of the century feel. That aside, the big production sound and ‘take it home’ numbers that we’ve all grown up with, along with all those sweet little tender story changing songs from the world of Menken, don’t disappoint.

One of my favorite songs, which is new to the Broadway production is “Watch What Happens,” sung by the female lead. Other highlights are big dancing numbers like “King of New York,” and “Carrying the Banner.” Also wonderful are the songs “Santa Fe,” “Seize the Day,” and “I Never Planned on You/Don’t Come a-Knocking.”

The Newsies Original Broadway Cast Recording can easily be enjoyed as a stand alone disc, but fans of the Disney film and especially those who’ve seen the current Newsies musical on stage in NYC, will be those most excited to sing along with this terrific CD.

Happy Birthday Alan Menken, and thank you for another hour of musical bliss!

*OWTK received a copy of Newsies for review consideration. The opinions above are honest and unbiased, as always.

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