Josh and the City: Carrying the Banner, Witnessing the Dream

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I had the opportunity to do something that felt like it was four years in the making: I was finally able to see Newsies on Broadway last week. I say four years because ever since I saw the film in college for the first time (something I still have a hard time believing, since I know I would have watched it over and over again if I had discovered it as a kid), I wanted to see it done on stage. Disney’s decision to adapt the story and give it a chance on Broadway is one that I, like every other “Fansie” out there, truly appreciated.

But this was far from a typical Broadway musical viewing for me. One of my friends from college happens to be in the production and has been fortunate enough to experience the process since the show’s inception at Paper Mill Playhouse. You can hear his voice on the original Broadway cast recording and watch him in cast performances on talk shows like “The View” and “Good Morning America” as well as the 2012 Tony Awards. He performs in eight shows a week and somehow manages to do it all with a smile.

Needless to say, I was the one smiling when the overture started and the lights began to dim in the Nederlander Theater last Wednesday. I was instantly overcome with a mixture of emotions: exhilaration, pride in my friend and that odd melancholy feeling you get when you know you’re about to experience a touching piece of theatre.

The show was amazing.

“Carrying the Banner” made me want to jump up on stage and sing along with the cast; “The World Will Know” gave the boys a chance to show off their strong voices in addition to their already impressive dancing; “Seize the Day” was utter perfection; and “Watch What Happens” played on repeat in my mind throughout the rest of the show (and has made a home there ever since). Of course, the showstopper was the impressive tap break during “King of New York,” during which I got straight-up chills when I saw my friend do a particular tap move he became famous for in a production at our school. The moment made me feel like I had flashed back in time only to skip ahead to the present to witness a dream come true.

I spent the entire show sitting there in awe, watching the dancers leap and tap and jump and flip across the stage, wondering how they still had the endurance to pull it all off since many of them have been working on it for well over a year. More importantly, I got to see someone I trained with light up the stage with his talent and have a blast doing it. Sure, it was great to see some of the original cast members give live performances of the songs I have played to death on my iPod, but it was ten times more engaging to see a familiar face up there sharing his gifts with an audience that was just as impressed by him as I was.

I’m sure that to many young actors out there, seeing friends make it on Broadway is commonplace, but since this was my first time witnessing something of such an exciting magnitude, I was blown away by it. As aspiring actors, I feel like we all have a goal of where we want to end up, be it Broadway or somewhere else. We all want to “make it” in our own way. After seeing my friend at the stage door when Newsies was over, I knew without a doubt that he had made it. Not because he’s in one of the most popular shows currently running on Broadway (or because he’s in a Broadway show at all), but because in the midst of the show’s success, he has remained humble, genuine and grateful for everything he’s been given. To me, that is so much more admirable than being able to execute fancy tap steps and sing in perfect harmony. It’s people like him that will continue to work and inspire other actors to be kind to one another and never stop believing in themselves.

Making it on Broadway CAN be done, my friends. It’s not easy and it’s definitely not guaranteed, but as I saw last week, it’s not impossible. If a group of newsboys can go on strike and take down the likes of Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hurst, then dancing across a Broadway stage is definitely attainable.

Note: I have not disclosed my friend’s identity to preserve his privacy.

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5 Responses

  1. I didn’t even see this till now. Newsies in the only one of my top three shows that is still running and I need it to stay open (for my sake). It’s definitely on my list to go see again, and I saw it right before Capathia Jenkins left the show which was incredible. I’m so glad that you’re having such an amazing time in your move to the city. You have truly already struck it big with your experiences in the city!

    • Thank you Katherine! It’s certainly been an adventure so far :) I told my friend that I will definitely be back because I’d love to see the show as many times as I can while it’s playing.

  2. I am thrilled that we share a love for Newsies! It’s definitely a production that MUST be seen when in New York, no questions asked. Renee, thank you so much for your kind words! They totes made my day! :) And Wendi, I CANNOT stop listening to “Watch What Happens” and the “Watch What Happens Reprise.” They are some of the toughest songs I’ve heard (patter-wise) in recent music theatre literature, so I am attempting to learn and master them for fun! As a former Trevor Graydon, I know how difficult pattering can be, so major kudos to Kara Lindsay for nailing it and keeping it fresh!

  3. I love reading your column, Josh, and this has to be my favorite so far! I have been a fan of Newsies since I first saw the movie ten years ago, and I am waiting for the day when I get to see it live; be aware that I am living vicariously through you right now, because I am dying to see it on stage! The way you speak about your friend is wonderful, and made me overwhelmingly proud of him by the time I finished reading. I love it!

  4. I absolutely LOVE Newsies! I saw it last summer (after listening to the soundtrack on loop…unashamedly…for weeks) and it definitely did not disappoint. The choreography was better than anything I’d ever seen in a Broadway musical, the score is fantastic, and the entire production was extremely well done. I was lucky enough to see Jeremy Jordan as Jack, but the entire cast was phenomenal. This is definitely one of my favorites…so glad you liked it, as well!