On Broadway, there are a lot of musicals based on hit films that mirror their source material’s success. But “Disney’s Newsies” is the rare box office dud that’s turned into a smash hit musical.
That weird journey isn’t lost on Joey Myers, the star of Robidoux Resident Theatre’s production of the musical.
“I think it has a great cult following because the movie kind of bombed. It didn’t do great in the box office, but it still cultivated this massive group following,” he said.
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From Myers’ perspective, the reason the show found a second life was because of its brilliant choreography, addictive energy and catchy songs.
“It’s different than a lot of other shows on Broadway right now because it’s just formulated different. (It has) great music and dancing and a message that left people feeling upbeat,” he said.
St. Joseph will feel those positive vibes this weekend when the musical is performed at the Missouri Theater at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, July 12 and 13 and at 2 p.m. Sunday, July 14.
Based on the Newsboys Strike of 1899 in New York City, the musical follows Jack Kelly (Myers) and a group of fellow destitute newspaper peddlers on strike after they discover the price of papers has increased exponentially. The rise in prices means fewer papers sold, which in turn dashes the dreams of the boys getting out of poverty.
In the process, Kelly befriends two hopeful newsboys, Davey (BJ Myers, Joey’s real-life brother) and Davey's little brother, Les (Mac Carlson). Together, with the help of an intrepid reporter, Katherine (Cramista Volz), they organize a strike that sends ripples through the industry.
Having never seen the 1992 Christian Bale-led movie, director Carol Myers said she was inspired by the musical when she saw it with her family on Broadway.
“I was wondering, ‘Why didn’t the movie take off?’ Because it’s still all those young men, but there’s something about having them (live) onstage that it makes the energy almost tenfold because it’s all contained right there,” she said.
Having worked on several big RRT productions in the past couple of years, Carol Myers said this show differs because the cast is mainly young men. To her, that means a change in dynamics and the way they bond onstage.
“There’s a real camaraderie that’s come out of the show that I didn’t foresee happening. I mean, every show builds its community, you know, we care for each other and support each other. But man, these boys are just bonded, and it shows on and off stage,” she said.
There’s an almost team-like mindset for the cast, where they’re performing rituals and supporting each other at every performance.
“It’s like a team sport (where they) put (their) hands all together and do some kind of phrase. No one made that happen. It’s just this this community has just developed all on its own, without any prompting that’s been kind of unlike any other show I’ve been a part of,” she said.
The best comparison Carol Myers can find is being a part of two productions of “Steel Magnolias,” which contained all-female casts and had friendships formed on and off the stage.
In addition to the male cast, “Newsies” includes returning RRT members like Natalie Smith, Natalie McDowell and Sydney Van Dyke playing supporting roles.
“The rest of the cast is full of some really strong people who played leading roles or strong supporting roles. I just got lucky again,” Carol Myers said.
The show is extra lucky for the Myers clan because it’s a true family affair, as Carol directs, her husband, Bemo, serves as the music director and Joey and BJ act together.
“It doesn’t happen very often that we’re in the same show, and this may be our last one, too. So it’s been kind of special in that regard,” she said.
Working with his brother and the rest of the cast, Joey Myers said as he plans to branch out his acting to regional theater productions, he feels like this will be a highlight for his acting career.
“We’re all so connected onstage and offstage that it’s created such a great dynamic,” he said.
With the youthful energy overflowing in the show, he hopes it will have people feeling good and leaving with a tune in their head.
“What we hope to do is bring in an audience and share a special story that is fun, is lighthearted and has special meanings that’s able to touch everybody, whether it’s true love or the little guy taking down Goliath,” he said.
Andrew Gaug | St. Joe Live