As Katherine Plumber, an aspiring reporter in Broadway’s “Newsies,” newcomer Kara Lindsay gets what critics have declared is the show’s “best” song, “Watch What Happens,” about a subject that hasn’t had much attention before in Disney musicals: Writer’s block.
As the lyrics go: “Write what you know / So they say / All I know is I don’t know / what to write / or the right way to write it.”
Lindsay calls the number “a brainstorm out loud.”
Centered around a real-life 1899 newsboy strike, “Newsies” has a score by Alan Menken (“Beauty and the Beast”) and Jack Feldman, and a book by theater stalwart Harvey Fierstein. Lindsay’s Katherine, who is just entering the work force, is a new addition to the story, which first gained traction as a 1992 film.
Lindsay, a native of upstate Rochester, stars alongside Jeremy Jordan (“Bonnie & Clyde”), whose Jack Kelly is the leader of a ragged band of teenaged “Newsies.” In true Disney fashion, the “Newsies” dream of a better life far from the streets, but need help getting there. That’s where Lindsay comes in.
“Newsies” is Lindsay’s Broadway debut after work on two shows that were earmarked for New York, but never made it, including “Little House on the Prairie,” which, like “Newsies,” began its stage life at New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse. “Newsies” wasn’t ever intended for Broadway -- Disney commissioned it for licensing to schools, which had been clamoring for a stage adaptation of the film -- but after its success in New Jersey, here it is.
Lindsay sat down with NBC 4 New York at the Nederlander to talk about life as the leading lady on a set full of dancing, hyped-up hooligans.
NBC4NY: What’s it like to be a Disney princess on Broadway?
LINDSAY: The “Newsies” boys always say that, and I always say, “Where’s my crown? Where’s my ball gown?” She’s a Disney character who can inspire young girls, but I never thought of her as a princess. She’s smart. She’s feisty. You can be that in real life. You can succeed and be a successful news reporter.
NBC4NY: Before Katherine, who was your favorite Disney leading lady?
LINDSAY: Belle (from “Beauty and the Beast”). We had the brown hair-thing in common. She sang a whole song about being odd, and I was weird and odd. She wasn’t afraid of anything. She tried to save her father from this beast, and I know that’s not a real scenario, but she was a strong woman, and that spoke to me.
NBC4NY: How do young girls react to you at the stage door?
LINDSAY: Last night, a girl said “I want to be like you when I grow up.” She might have been 12. I just hugged her. It’s crazy to think of, because I was the little girl in the seat watching “Beauty and Beast” on Broadway and saying, “I want to be Belle.”
NBC4NY: You’re the female star in a show that’s mostly all guys. Not a bad gig?
LINDSAY: At the stage door at night you think you’re at a Justin Bieber concert. When Jeremy walks out there, the screams are deafening.
NBC4NY: What’s your relationship like with the boys backstage?
LINDSAY: The other day, Brendon Stimson and Mike Faist (the Delancey Brothers) hung a fake tarantula in front of our door, so when I walked out, I screamed. So now it’s a prank war. I’m 27, but I act like I’m 13.
NBC4NY: It’s unusual to make your Broadway debut in a starring role. What was your mindset on opening night?
LINDSAY: Capathia Jenkins is my dressing room-mate. She said, “Don’t ever forget this evening,” and I knew that. When I took my bow, I thought about 8-year-old Kara who would write in her journal and say, “One day, I want to be Belle on Broadway. And this so far exceeds that, because Katharine is a real person, someone you can relate to in real life. She was’t a real person in history, but Katharine resembles people in history, like Nellie Bly, and that makes her all the more relatable for kids. You can dream of being a princess, but you know that’s not going to happen.