A musical day in a rainy Big Apple

Geon Woo Lee/Staff
MoMA in New York City.

It had been a while since I visited New York City. The last time I came to this bustling city was exactly a year ago, when I was still a student from the East Coast and a year’s absence from New York was pretty rare in my life. I was not as excited to walk around the streets of Manhattan as before; rather, I was longing for a rest after a ski trip.

However, there was one event in my mind that kept me excited. My family had bought tickets for “Newsies the Musical.” I didn’t know its plot, historical context or characters before the show, but I was still thrilled to see a theater production after being away for a while. Before the show, due to the rainy weather, I abandoned my plans to visit ground zero in the morning and instead decided to find shelter inside a museum. I walked about 10 blocks along Fifth Avenue from the hotel toward Midtown, passing by the great Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center, and arrived at the Museum of Modern Art. MoMA is very familiar to me, as I have visited a couple of times before, and its current special exhibition, focusing on digital design, attracted me to visit yet again.

As an architecture student, I am naturally interested in exploring new trends in the design world. I quickly skimmed through the museum’s third and fourth floors, where the permanent collections are displayed, and headed down to the second floor. I was intrigued to find clever design solutions integrating with modern technology, such as in virtual reality. But I was more excited to find one of my deep childhood interests, SimCity, displayed in a museum.

After a short visit to MoMA, I spent the rest of the day holiday shopping and eating delicious Korean food with family friends. The weather was a bit gloomy; light rain kept pouring down throughout the day. Having forgotten to bring an umbrella, I was often forced to seek shelter indoors, limiting my movement.

After dinner, it was time for the musical. My family and I arrived at the Nederlander Theatre about 7 p.m., 30 minutes before the show, and I used this spare time to Google the summary of “Newsies” on my iPhone so I could understand the musical a bit more. I found out that this Disney musical “Newsies” was roughly based on the New York newsboy strike of 1899, when the young headline-hawkers successfully waged a strike against media titans Pulitzer and Hearst. By the time I finished flipping through the playbill, the lights inside the theater had begun to flicker, signaling the start of the musical.

Jack Kelly, the protagonist and leader of the newsboys, appeared in emphatic fashion. He was soon joined by his fellow newsboys, and the next two hours of my life went by fast. I was hooked by their upbeat choreography and energetic music. The use of three tiers on the stage was particularly impressive. I was luckily seated on the second level, which I believe provided a better view of the entire action than the orchestra level. With predominantly male characters, the musical “Newsies” exceeded my expectations. Its integration of history, universal messages and lively movements captivated the audience so that a standing ovation in the end was expected.

The musical reminded me of a day I was live-hawking before the Cal-Oregon State football game. I was walking around the streets near the California Memorial Stadium, passing out The Daily Californian’s special gameday issues. It was hard carrying 100-plus pages of newspapers, and distributing them was tiring. I hawked for about an hour to find my hands covered in ink and my arms exhausted. I was performing the same exact job that the newsboys of New “Yawk” had done in history. But the exhaustion I endured was nothing compared to their hardships. They were fighting for survival against the most powerful men in town.

Their courage still remains in my head. It was the perfect gift from my parents after my first college finals. After all, New York was the best place to spend my holiday season. During each previous visit, the Big Apple, packed with numerous activities and people, never disappointed me. But this trip, despite the bad weather, was particularly enjoyable because of the thoughtful art I viewed at MoMA and the dynamic musical I watched at the Nederlander.

Contact Geon Woo Lee at [email protected]