Happy New Year, All! I hope you all are well and rested and well-caroled and figgy puddinged and ball dropped (well THAT sounded dirty) and ready for a happy and healthy new year. And what a new year we have in store in entertainment! All sorts of good stuff is coming down the pike, more than I can chuck a squee at.
One of those good things is the musical version of my beloved movie, Newsies. As I have discussed before on this here bloggedy blog, I have a special relationship with Newsies. As a young’un, I watched it enough that it’s possible part of my DNA has been rewritten with little tiny side hitch-kicks, and as an older’un, I still maintain a secret fondness for suspenders. Thus, it’s no surprise that when it was announced that they were finally going to do a stage version of the movie (FINALLY) out at Papermill, my friends and I piled into a train and went to get our Santa Fe on.
And now, Newsies is kickin’ its heels up and heading to the great white way. And I shall be there, with a cap on (well, not in my theater seat, obviously). But I’m warning you, Broadway production of Newsies, while I enjoyed your Papermill version quite a bit, there’s one glaring omission that I find it hard to forgive.
To put it simply, you missed a Spot.
You see, my favorite character in Newsies the movie was the tough Brooklyn Newsie Spot Conlon. Why? Because he was the awesomest.
As most of you reading this blog probably already know, in the movie version of Newsies, our hero Jack Kelly wants to send emissaries to the newsies of different boroughs, but is reluctant to find volunteers to go to Brooklyn because of Spot Conlon, who is scary. So Jack goes himself, out to the piers covered with older looking boys who are inexplicably swimming in white long johns (I know it’s probably historically accurate, but seriously, movie, having tough teenagers swim in white long johns is like having a mob boss appear wearing bunny slippers. Not. Scary.) Spot Conlon appears, and to our delight, far from being the biggest and toughest of all, he is tiny. However, he is certainly tough and has a delightful mouth shaped like an archer’s bow (what? It’s not pervy if I was tween at the time of the original crush, right?), and tells Jack that he won’t join until Jack proves he can fight back if things get rough. Jack goes back alone, but when a fight starts, Spot Conlon and his vicious slingshot and band of Brooklyn toughs save the day and join the fight.
To put it simply, Spot Conlon is an excellent character. So I was very much looking forward to seeing who they would cast when the show was first announced, only to see his name listed in amongst all the other newsies. How could this be? Spot Conlon and Specs are not equal, Newsies. My worry grew when I looked in the program and saw that Spot didn’t have a number in the first act. Well, okay, I thought, he does have one in the second, called ‘Brooklyn is Here’, so my fears were assuaged by thinking that maybe they saved Spot’s big moment for his save-the-day entrance.
Oh, readers, how wrong I was. Spot’s big scene in the first act was totally cut, and his number in the second was a lame refrain sung by a few Newsies walking in place on the set as though they were crossing the bridge, dressed in tight red outfits that made me wonder if maybe someone had misunderstood and thought that ‘Brooklyn’ was actually a leather bar in Jersey. And that was basically it for the character.
Now, I’m going to address you directly, Broadway production of Newsies. Because this is serious, and it’s not too late for you. Fix this. Bring back Spot Conlon.
You see, there are few things I know for sure in this world. But one of those things is that if Spot Conlon had a big number in the first act, it would stop the show (in a good way, not in a Miss Marmelstein ‘nothing else in this show can top that, so you might as well all go home’ way).
Here’s what you do, Newsies: simply put back in the scene in which Jack and David go out to Brooklyn. Keep, as it is in the movie, David’s convincing Spot, and Jack’s line about Davey being “a mouth with a brain,” because that will add back in a bit of coloring for David, a character who lost quite a bit of it in translation (I mean, I know Jack is the most important character, but one of the beauties of that movie is how fleshed-out a lot of the Newsies are, which really isn’t the case in the show). Then you have Spot say, basically, you’re in my town now, and here are my rules, and then, bam, you’re in the middle of a badass number in which Spot sings about Brooklyn and how this is his town (suggested song titles are either ‘Brooklyn’ or ‘It’s My Town’, for obvious reasons). It’s fierce, the amazing kid you get to take down the house makes everyone in the audience’s face melt with his talent and pure chutzpah (just cast Al Calderon. Seriously, just do that.), all the kids get another amazing number which Chris Gattelli will choreograph the crap out of, and everybody who lives in Brooklyn will come see the show and adopt the song as an anthem. And then, when Spot shows up in the second act, there will be great rejoicing. Oh, and for the love of god, cut those stupid red outfits – Spot in the movie carries a walking stick and a slingshot, because the movie understood that a true badass leader doesn’t wear a muscle tee, but rather has the kind of peculiar affectation that says “I must be truly scary, because I am a tiny newsie who carries a walking stick and yet everyone is scared of me.”
See, if you don’t believe me, watch this and tell me that line about having a brain, and not just half of one, isn’t a HUGE MUSICAL NUMBER CUE!!
I know, you’re probably thinking, eek, we have a lot of numbers, we don’t need another, but to that I say, pshaw. This is no mere number, this is a potential showstopper. And you can cut ‘Brooklyn is Here’ (I’d hate to waste that full five minutes of time it took Alan Menken to write that one, but you’ll want a brief reprise of ‘Brooklyn’ or ‘It’s My Town’, anyway), and, if you’re in a pinch, lose that ‘Mr. Cladwell’ number for Pulitzer. Done and done!
Just trust me on this one, Newsies. I’ll love you anyway, but do this, for yourself.
P.S. Do you know how many spot puns I refrained from making in this post? A lot. A whole lot. I just want credit for that.