It was a drizzly Friday in March 1999 when my life changed forever. I was in sixth grade, and we had class right before recess near the end of the day.
Our music teacher – we’ll call her Mrs. R – said, “We’re going to watch a movie today.” Cheers from the class. “It’s a musical.” A collective groan of disappointed from most of the class – yours truly excepted. “It’s a little different – it’s an all-boy cast, so the dancing is very different.” Well, I thought to myself, at least we don’t have to do those weird vocal warm-ups she always has us do…’mommy made me eat my M&Ms….’
She put the VHS in the VCR and the movie began playing. “In 1899, the streets of New York City echoed with the voices of Newsies…”
From those first few words, I was in love. I was mesmerized by the music (by Alan Menken, who also write the songs to Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid – for me, at the time, that was a big deal). The acting was superb (ah, the sweet innocence of being 11 and not really knowing good acting from bad). We only had time to watch about 40 minutes worth of the movie before we were told we had to go to recess. Ugh. Recess ruined everything in elementary school for me, especially when we were told we had to play, not read or write. (Even then, I understood I was in the minority on that issue.) A few of us begged to stay in during recess and watch more of the movie, but, alas, were denied.
The night, I begged my mother to take me to Blockbuster and rent it. The next day, my mom said we could only get it if I didn’t watch it until my research paper was done. After toiling for hours on, what I thought would eventually become the greatest treatise on The Origins of Mickey Mouse to date, I rushed to the living room.
The rain poured outside and I sat down and put the tape in the VCR. I audibly screamed upon seeing that the previous borrower had NOT rewound the tape. They could have spoiled something for me!
After covering my eyes and rewinding the tape, I was able to start at the beginning. My mom asked, “why don’t you just start it where you left off?”
I gave her a disgusted look and said, “because you have to experience it the way the director intended!” (I was a little precocious.)
I watched it all the way through. At the end of the credits (not just when the last shot faded out, we’re talking the END-end – when the VCR would start automatically rewinding the tape), I let it rewind and watched it all over again.
Yeah. It was that good. Thus, my life was changed.
I know, that sounds dramatic, but it’s true. My whole life began to revolve around Newsies. I learned all the songs. I learned all the dances. I honed my Internet searching skills – keep in mind, in 1999/2000, the Internet was still in its early adolescence as far as the American public was concerned. I visited every Newsies fansite I could find (pre-Google, pre-any search engine days). This led to my joining the Newsies Mailing List in 2000, and reading twice as much Newsies fanfiction as I read novels. As I grew older, seeds planted by Newsies began to bloom in other ways – love of musicals, love of film, love of history. When Newsies hit the stage (which, btw, I’d been praying for since around 2002, so you’re welcome), it awakened a love of Broadway theater and its music. And, of course, I’ve always been a Disney fan at heart.
I thought this would be a good place to set the tone for my blog posts, as they will likely run in this vein – Disney, history, and film/TV, with some other nerdery thrown in there, no doubt.