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Newsies: From Razzie Winner to Broadway Smash

High Times, Hard Times

Credit: The Golden Raspberry Awards

On March 10, 2019, The Razzies!, published a video where 8-time Oscar-winner composer Alan Menken, graciously accepted the one trophy that was missing in his massive collection representing his long and successful career: The 1992 Worst Song Razzie for his composition “High Times, Hard Times” from the Disney movie musical Newsies.

High times, Hard times
Sometimes the living is sweet
And sometimes there’s nothing to eat
But I always land on my feet
So when there’s dry times
I wait for high times and then
I put on my best and I stick out my chest
And I’m off to the races again!
My good friend the mayor, he called me today
He said, “Medda, the waters are turning away”
“Help me!” He cried, or they’ll give me the axe!
I said, “Your Honor, you’ve got to relax.”
Everybody!
High times, Hard times
Sometimes the living is sweet
And sometimes there’s nothing to eat
But I always land on my feet
So when there’s dry times
I wait for high times and then
I put on my best and I stick out my chest
And I’m off to the races again!
So your old lady don’t love you no more?
So you’re afraid there’s a wolf at your door?
So you got streetrats that scream in your ear?
You win some you lose some my dear!
Oh, High times, Hard times
Sometimes the living is sweet
And sometimes there’s nothing to eat
But I always land on my feet
So when there’s dry times
I wait for high times and then
I put on my best and I stick out my chest
And I’m off to the races again!
I put on my best! (I put on my best!)
Ah, yes, and I stick out my chest! (I stick out my chest!)
And I’m off! (And I’m off!)
And I’m off! (And I’m off!)
And I’m off to the races again!

According to the Razzies themselves, “For every best there must be a worst… The Golden Raspberry Awards have been the counterbalance to the Oscars since 1981. In that time, the mock ceremony has handed out some humbling awards to some of Hollywood’s brightest stars.” After being awarded countless accolades for his compositions, it stands to reason that there would be a musical number considered to be the worst of his catalog.

The video’s description from the official Razzie YouTube channel reads:

8-time Oscar Winner (and the proud owner of a cabinetful of other Major Showbiz Awards) Alan Menken has graciously accepted the one trophy that was missing from his massive stockpile of statuettes: The 1992 Worst Song Razzie for one of his rare missteps, “High Times, Hard Times” from the movie Newsies.

Credit: Disney

Disney Legend and EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) winner Menken clarified, “I won the Razzie for worst song of the year for the Newsies movie for ‘High Times, Hard Times’. I’m very proud that I actually have a REGOT. [Receiving a Razzie] puts everything into perspective,” Menken said. “You get all these awards and then, thank goodness, a Razzie comes along to just kick you in the butt, which is very healthy, really.” Though he only accepted the physical award in 2019, 27 years after his win, “I found out that it won the Razzie Award for worst song of the year literally backstage when I was in the press room for having received the two Oscars for Beauty and the Beast.” he confessed in an interview ahead of the film’s 2022 30th anniversary.

Credit: The Academy Awards

The composer had won the Beauty and the Beast Oscars at the 64th Academy Awards for best original score and best original song. And he would go on to win best original score and best original song again the following year for Aladdin and its chart-topping hit love theme “A Whole New World”.

The Walt Disney live-action musical Newsies led by Menken and starring a young Christian Bale, had no shortage of classic songs, “Santa Fe”, “Seize the Day”, and “King of New York” being the notable standout numbers. Despite this, the film grossed a mere $2,819,485 domestically, failing to recoup its $15 million budget. This is largely due to the movie being pulled from many theaters after a poor performance during its opening weekend. It still ranks among the lowest-grossing live-action films produced by Walt Disney Studios. And in addition, to its “Worst Song” nomination, it was nominated for “Worst Picture” at The Razzies, though it lost to Shining Through, a 1992 American World War II drama film starring Michael Douglas and Melanie Griffith.

Credit: Disney

Newsies the film was based on the true story of The newsboy strike of 1899, a U.S. youth-led campaign to force publishing giants Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst to compensate for their force of newsboys. The strikers demonstrated across New York City for several days, effectively stopping circulation of two major papers. The strike was successful in forcing the New York World and Journal to offer full buybacks to their sellers, thus increasing the amount of money that newsies received for their work.

Credit: Disney Theatrical Productions

The inspiring true story, Kenny Ortega choreography, and charming Christian Bale as the lead made Newsies a cult classic after its release on home video. The stage musical adaptation from Disney Theatrical Productions came in 2012 with music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Jack Feldman, and a book by Harvey Fierstein. Jeremy Jordan of Smash fame filled the role of Christian Bale’s Jack “Cowboy” Kelly. And in the Broadway Musical version, “High Times, Hard Times” performed in the film by Ann Margaret as Medda Larkson is notably absent, replaced instead with Capathia Jenkins’ Medda performing “That’s Rich” in the Original Broadway Cast Recording. The production was nominated for eight total Tony Awards, ultimately winning two: Christopher Gattelli for Best Choreography and lyricist Jack Feldman and composer Alan Menken for Best Original Score. Making the box-office bomb both a critical and commercial Broadway hit.

Credit: Disney+

About Maggie Koch

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