Full Synopsis

Full Synopsis

Act One

New York City – Summer – 1899. Dawn breaks over the tenement rooftop where Jack Kelly, a brash and charismatic boy of 17, tells his younger pal Crutchie of his desire to journey west to find a better life ("Santa Fe - Prologue"). The church bells signal the beginning of the work day for the newsies of New York. Jack and Crutchie climb down to join the proud and enthusiastic band of newsboys, who are always looking for a prime selling spot and a way to make an old story sound new ("Carrying the Banner"). Wiesel and the tough Delancey brothers open the window of The World to distribute papers to the newsies for fifty cents per hundred. Two new boys appear in line: Davey, 16, and his adorable 10-year-old brother, Les. Sensing an opportunity, Jack suggests a partnership. High above in his imposing office, publisher Joseph Pulitzer complains that circulation and profits are down, meaning fewer people are being influenced by his agenda. He decides to raise the newsies’ price, forcing them to sell more papers to earn a living ("The Bottom Line").

Later that day, Jack takes Davey and Les to a burlesque theater to evade Snyder, a crooked man who runs The Refuge, a juvenile jail from which Jack once escaped on the back of Governor Teddy Roosevelt’s carriage. Jack introduces his partners to the theater’s owner and star, Medda Larkin, who shows off Jack’s impressive scenery painting. The boys then settle in to watch her perform  ("That's Rich").Up in a box during the next number ("Don't Come a-Knocking"), Jack discovers a pretty girl who brushed him off that morning, a reporter who’s reviewing the show for The Sun and has no time for his advances. Taken by her beauty and pluck, he sketches her face on a piece of newsprint ("I Never Planned on You") and then disappears, leaving the drawing behind.

The next morning, the newsies are shocked by the price hike, which William Randolph Hearst has also adopted at The Journal. Barely able to feed themselves and with nowhere to turn, they start to panic. Jack instinctively rebels, refusing to work until the price comes back down. Taking Jack’s lead, the newsies get swept up in the moment, declare themselves a union and decide to strike ("The World Will Know"). Convening in nearby Jacobi’s Deli, the newsies plan to spread the word to the other boroughs, especially Brooklyn, home of Spot Conlon, whose tough reputation is legendary. The girl reporter – byline Katherine Plumber – appears and promises to get their story in The Sun if they give her the scoop. Jack is skeptical, but he doesn’t want to let the girl get away again, so he agrees to help. Alone and nervous in front of her typewriter, Katherine begins to write her story ("Watch What Happens").

Only a few newsies have assembled to strike the next day, and none from the other boroughs. Jack urges Davey to convince the frightened kids not to back down. When scabs arrive to take the newsies’ place, Jack asks them to stand in solidarity with all the city’s working children who are being exploited. The scabs throw down their papes, just in time for Katherine and her photographer to snap a photo ("Seize the Day"). But soon the newsies are surrounded by goons and engage in a fierce fight. When the cops arrive and start beating on the kids, they run. Snyder’s appearance scares Jack away, but not before he sees Snyder take down Crutchie and carry him off to The Refuge. Reaching the temporary safety of his rooftop, Jack paces, guilty about his role in the tragedy and longing for escape ("Santa Fe - Reprise"). 

Act Two

The next morning, the beaten and discouraged newsies are sitting in Jacobi’s deli when Katherine arrives and shows them their photo on the front page of The Sun. Their sudden fame cheers them up and ignites their dreams ("King of New York"). At The Refuge, Crutchie pens a letter to Jack encouraging him and the newsies to stay strong and to protect one another like a family (“Letter from the Refuge”). Backstage at Medda’s theater, Davey, Katherine, and Les find Jack alone and ashamed, painting a backdrop. Despite the newsies’ story “above the fold” and plans for a rally, Jack doubts their prospects until his partners convince him to double-down and see this strike through ("Watch What Happens - Reprise"). 

Discovering the headline “Newsies Stop The World,” a furious Pulitzer seeks to obliterate the root of the defiance. Snyder describes Jack’s criminal past and escape from The Refuge. Just then, a cocky Jack arrives to announce the newsies’ rally. Pulitzer scoffs and assures Jack that no paper will cover it; therefore it won’t exist. He then reveals his daughter, Katherine, who left a life of luxury to write for a rival paper, and Snyder, who emerges from the shadows. Amid Jack’s shock and panic, Pulitzer offers a choice: go to prison or renounce the strike and leave New York with pockets full of cash. The Delanceys escort Jack to the cellar to ponder his decision on an old printing press ("The Bottom Line - Reprise").

That evening, Spot Conlon crosses the bridge with his gang to join newsies from every borough at Medda’s theater for the rally ("Brooklyn's Here"). When Jack appears, they leap to their feet, but their cheers turn to boos as he warns them they are no match for Pulitzer and advises them to go back to work. Jack takes his payoff money at the door and exits quickly. On his rooftop, Jack finds Katherine going through his drawings of The Refuge’s bleak conditions. He snatches them from her and they argue fiercely until she kisses him. Katherine then shares her plan to have the newsies distribute her article, “The Children’s Crusade,” which denounces the exploitation of working kids of the city and calls for a citywide strike. Before heading to an unused press Jack has recently discovered, they share their hope in one another ("Something to Believe In"). Katherine and Jack join the newsies in the cellar of The World and work through the night to print and distribute The Newsies Banner ("Once and For All").

The next morning, Pulitzer’s office is flooded with angry calls from every corner of the city, which has been effectively shut down by its children. Jack, Davey and Spot barge in and return Pulitzer’s blackmail money ("Seize the Day - Reprise"). Pulitzer refuses to back down until Governor Roosevelt appears with Katherine and Jack’s drawings of The Refuge. His leverage quickly eroding, Pulitzer compromises by agreeing to buy back unsold papers. Outside, Jack announces the end of the strike. Crutchie appears amid the jubilation, followed by a handcuffed Snyder, who is led off to jail. Despite his dreams for Santa Fe, Jack realizes that the newsies are his family and Katherine gives him something to believe in – so he’s staying put for now (“Finale”).