NOTE: This piece is the second in a three piece set about the Newsboy Reunion Concert on August 20, which was attended by half of the writers for the Board. All will write their own piece with their own thoughts.
Anyone who knows me knows that there are five very important men in my life: my father, the Jonas Brothers (I’m still holding out for that rumoured reunion tour) and Alan Menken. I love my dad with everything in me but he does not have anything to do with the theatre community, and we haven’t seen a Jonas Brother on a Broadway stage in over 6 years, so I must be talking about Grammy, Oscar, and Tony winning composer, Alan Menken. From the soundtracks of the movies I loved as a kid to the cast albums I have on repeat as an adult, Mr. Menken has proven to have a lasting influence on me. After the most recent Newsies reunion concert at 54 Below this past August, it’s easy to see I am not alone feeling that way.
Newsboys Sing Alan Menken was a concert celebrating the living legacy of Alan Menken’s career through the eyes of cast members of various productions of Newsies. Watching these people that I grew to love during the show’s Broadway run, national tour and cinema release sing Menken’s career to me-and by me I mean a full house at 54 Below-was mind-blowingly incredible. Sharing that experience with my fellow board members (shoutout to Molly and Hayley for not judging me after I cried after every song) was a night I won’t soon forget. There were several nostalgically exciting moments during this show, but there were a few that stood out to me that I would like to discuss in detail.
“Skid Row/Carrying The Banner”-Stuart Zagnit
I’m getting welled up just reminiscing about this number to write about it. Little Shop of Horrors is one of my all-time favorite musicals ever, and it’s my favorite non-Hercules Alan Menken score. Although Newsies isn’t the show that turned me into a theatre kid, it is the one that introduced me to the theatre community. Both of these shows have touched me in ways I did not know stage productions ever could, so seeing them perfectly blended together is a memory that will forever be imprinted in my brain and in my heart. Also uproarious applause to Stuart Zagnit, the final Seymour Krelboune Off-Broadway and a swing in the original Broadway cast of Newsies, for starting that concert off with the best kind of bang. My heart is STILL bursting with love.
“Go the Distance”-Joshua Colley
If I had one theatre-related wish, it would be to bring Disney’s Hercules to Broadway. (If I had a second one, I’d wish to be casted in it but that is besides the point.) Not only would the score and story work beautifully on stage, it’s a highly demanded adaptation. I know, I know. They’re in the very early stages of development and I am over the moon about it, believe me. However, I’d like for the process to be sped up just a bit because I don’t want Joshua Colley to grow out of the change to play young Hercules. Just listen to his rendition of the titular character.’s ‘I Want’ song. HE IS SO PERFECT. Tell me I’m wrong. See? You can’t. Hearing Joshua sing this song revitalized my love for the Hercules score. Not that it needed much revitalizing in the first place, but you know what I mean.
“Pink Fish”-Damon Gillespie
I thought there was no one else on the planet who was as into Alan Menken as I am. Yeah, you have your Disney fans who know every word to every song he’s done for the Mouse House, and sure, you have the theatre nerds who will belt out every Menken tune from Little Shop to A Bronx Tale, but I pride myself in knowing every obscure Menken song there is. And apparently so does Damon. When the opening notes of this song began, I lost it. I was so excited someone else knew Pink Fish, as it is my favorite of Menken’s unknown gems. I was floored by how my excitement over hearing the song live was rivaled only by the excitement on Damon’s face to be performing it. I looked around at the theatre fans in the venue with puzzled but entertained looks on their faces as I sang along with one of the biggest smiles my face had ever seen.
There were a bunch more memorable moments that night. Famous in NY has a playlist on YouTube you’d like to see more! Hearing the stories of the Newsies cast members made my heart full. Every performance oozed with a sense of knowing how huge Menken’s musical reach was-and is-while also filling the room with an air of gratitude for everything he’s already provide to the world. It was an extraordinary celebration for an extraordinary man’s extraordinary accomplishments. It’s Alan Menken’s (Whole New) world...I’m just happy to be part of it.