Today’s Newsies music lesson and unit study will take you on a journey back to 1899 New York City, where the streets echo with the cries of newsboys fighting for their rights amidst the backdrop of social upheaval. Led by the masterful compositions of Alan Menken, this musical masterpiece won 8 Tony Awards and continues to captivate audiences worldwide. Let’s explore the historical context, behind-the-scenes insights, and dynamic song performances, all crafted to enrich your educational experience.
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Background Information about the Newsies, the Musical:
Newsies began as a musical movie produced by Disney before the Broadway stage adaptation. The movie came out in 1992 and only became popular after it was released to home video. It was first performed on stage in 2011 and made it to Broadway the following year where it won 8 Tony Awards.
Download a free coloring page below!
Synopsis of the Story of Newsies:
Newsies is set in New York City in 1899. It was a time when many young boys (and some girls) worked selling newspapers. Many of the boys in this story don’t have a home, but one boy and his little brother do. Davey and Les start working as newsies because his father was injured on his job and isn’t able to work. The boys who are newsies have to pay for the newspapers they want to sell each day. If they don’t sell them all, they don’t make a profit. When the owner of the newspaper company (Joseph Pulitzer) decides to make more money by raising the prices that the newsies need to pay, they decide to strike following their leader Jack Kelly with Davey’s help. Newsies is based on a true story: the Newsboys’ Strike of 1899.
Newsies Historical Background and Behind the Scenes:
Alan Menken (1949 – ) is a composer, songwriter, music conductor, director, and record producer who is best known for writing for Disney musical movies. He grew was born in New York City. His mother was and actress and playwright and his father played boogie-woogie piano. Alan learned to play piano and violin as a child and began composing before he turned 10.
Menken became famous for writing Little Shop of Horrors, a musical about a man-eating plant. Soon he began working for Disney on movie musicals such as The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin. He also wrote the music for musicals and movies such as A Christmas Carol, Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, Enchanted, and Tangled. He collaborated on Newsies with lyricist Jack Feldman.
Video Clips of Songs:
“King of New York”
Optional Extension Ideas for Newsies Music Lesson and Unit Study
This Behind-the-scenes video is very long, so just watch as much as you’d like. Beware that the Broadway version of Newsies has several songs with profanity in them. (This video includes the line “there’s hell to pay.”)
Free Coloring Page:
Listen to the Soundtrack:
(Beware that several of these songs contain profanity.)
Watch the Newsies Movies:
- A full Newsies Unit Study Curriculum Guide including historical information about the newsboys’ strike of 1899, synopsis of the movie story, and activities based on the history of the story (child labor, Pulitzer, etc.).