CRITIC’S CORNER COLUMNIST
I recently had the pleasure of watching not the movie, but the recorded Broadway production, of “Newsies,” with the original cast. Granted, it was still on a movie screen. But it was definitely a greater experience than the two hour movie version.
As a general note, the thing that never ceases to amaze me about musicals is how the actors manage to sing at full volume after just dancing more vigorously than I probably have in my life. And man, can this cast sing and dance.
Watching it with a recorded live audience makes even the viewers feel as if we’re part of something greater than ourselves. It’s a common experience that we enjoy sharing.
And what do we share? We watch the newsies, who are the bottom of the food chain, so to speak, stand up in resistance to a man who abuses his power over them because he only cares for himself.
The beautiful part is their victory is not only for the boys of New York City as a whole, but an individual victory for each over himself. There is something about sacrifice that forms the soul like nothing else can. By striking, the boys prove their ability to restrain from a good in order to achieve a greater one.
This is the same reality in the Christian life: in practices such as fasting, we give up temporary pleasure and success to achieve a good which will matter for much longer: in eternity.
When we train ourselves, by the grace of God, to give up small things in the present, further along in the journey we are then capable of giving up what seems greater in favor of what God has planned.
Jack Kelly, the primary protagonist, lives for the dream of some day getting to Santa Fe, a castle in a cloud which he has built up as the ultimate reality. He hates his life as a newsie, and wants nothing more than to escape the wretched city life. We know when we hear him sing about it that it is an idealization, which would disappoint him if he ever got there.
Yet over the course of the musical, Jack learns to live for reality rather than a dream. When given the chance to go to Santa Fe by means of “betraying” his boys, he takes it: but it’s not for himself. He believes that there is no other way to keep all the boys safe than to settle for being the slaves of a master.
However, when one last opportunity arises, Jack snatches it up and even sacrifices himself by confronting the master personally, who could easily arrest him for betraying their agreement. He realizes that the small things add up to make something monumental; and this time, it’s David slaying Goliath. We all want to know not only that David can slay Goliath, but that we’re a part of that: the giants in our own lives can be conquered. And it starts with simple steps, such as fasting or striking.
We hold our breath at the end when the boys ask Jack to stay, because we want to know that he’s learned to live for the present—and he doesn’t disappoint.
Jack stays in New York City, just as we are still in our own lives. Yet something has changed: he has stood up to that which prevented him from living in and for the present. Each of us can take this road as well, though it may be in short and sometimes sacrificial steps. We can learn to “seize the day.”