Whether you’re one the kids who grew up on Disney’s 1992 “Newsies” movie or a “Fansie” of the Tony-winning 2012 Broadway musical, Pioneer Theatre Company aims to deliver new and familiar facets in its production of the show, which opens Friday and continues through Dec. 20.

“Newsies” is the David-and-Goliath story of 19th-century newspaper kids forming a union to fight against publishing giant Joseph Pulitzer. With anthemic songs that make your heart swell in support of the underdogs, and acrobatic boy-energy dance numbers, it’s no surprise PTC has already extended its run. Last year, tickets sold out so quickly for the Salt Lake City shows of the national tour that MagicSpace, the Broadway series presenter, scheduled a return 5-show run two months later.

Pioneer audiences shouldn’t expect an exact replica of the movie or the Broadway show.

“When you start a new production, it’s important to look at the talent you have in the room and create a production on them,” says Karen Azenberg, PTC’s artistic director, who is directing and choreographing the show.

“When I saw the show in New York, I knew that once the regional theater licensing became available, it would work really well in this community,” Azenberg said.

The “Newsies” cast includes Broadway actor William Parry as Joseph Pulitzer; Jonathan Shew from Broadway’s “Bandstand” as Jack; Stephen Michael Langton, who performed in the two Salt Lake City runs of the national tour, as Davey; and a corps of 18 crackerjack dancers. Utah theatergoers might recognize Austin Archer, a Weber State University-trained actor, as Crutchie; he has performed regularly on Utah stages before and after a move to New York City.

Langton recalled the enthusiastic Fansies — that’s the name they’ve claimed — who followed the national tour and waited outside stage doors to meet cast members.

The cult popularity of the movie prompted the Disney stage adaptation, with music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Jack Feldman, and the book by Harvey Fierstein.

Christopher Gattelli created the high-flying Broadway choreography, after Kenny Ortega (director of The Disney Channel’s “High School Musical” trilogy filmed at Salt Lake City’s East High) directed and choreographed the 1992 film.

In playing Pulitzer, Parry said he put his confidence in Azenberg, and chose not see the movie or the stage show. He’s returning to Salt Lake City after performing in the company’s 2015 world premiere of “Alabama Story.” “Karen knows how to make the show live and to make it real,” he said.

Parry has known Azenberg for more than 20 years, including working in New York with her father, Manny Azenberg, a legendary theater producer and general manager whose credits include producing all of Neil Simon’s plays.

What Azenberg does so well, he said, “is to fill a piece of theater with surprises — some that delight and some that move you emotionally.”

(Courtesy Pioneer Theatre Company) William Parry (Joseph Pulitzer) and Jonathan Shew (Jack Kelly) star in Pioneer Theatre Company's production of "Newsies," running Dec. 1-20 in Salt Lake City.

Shew said he appreciated the way his leadership role in the ensemble cast merged with his onstage persona. “Karen has given me more freedom to create the role and I love it.”

Archer said he continues to enjoy returning to PTC. “The trap with the character of Crutchie is that it could become a caricature, but Karen is striving for a bit more of the darker reality of these kids and their situations,” Archer said. “Their toughness is covering for some sadness that I hope comes through in our entire production. At the same time, there is an immutable spirit about this show that will always be there and triumph.”

Now is the time to ‘Seize the Day’

Pioneer Theatre Company presents the stage adaptation of Disney’s “Newsies,” inspired by the real-life newsboy strike of 1899, and winner of the 2012 Tony for Best Musical Score.

When • Dec. 1-20; Mondays-Thursdays, 7 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.; with 2 p.m. Saturday matinees

Where • Simmons Pioneer Memorial Theatre, 300 S. 1400 East, University of Utah campus, Salt Lake City

Tickets • $42-$64; pioneertheatre.org
(Courtesy Pioneer Theatre Company) The cast of Pioneer Theatre Company's production of "Newsies," running Dec. 1-20 in Salt Lake City.
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Salt Lake City newsie history has its own twist on the price war that sparked the New York labor battle. In the 1890s, Utah newsboys formed a union, ganging up to boycott the Salt Lake Telegram.

The Telegram angered its sellers because the paper charged 3 cents, in contrast to the nickel charged by the Deseret News. The problem? Newsies didn’t have pennies to make change.

In his 1995 memoir, “My Life on Mountain Railroads,” William John Gilbert Gould wrote that The Telegram “refused to let us have papers unless we could show that we had a handful of pennies with which to make change. We boycotted the Telegram. If any kid showed up on the street with those papers, he had them taken away and torn to pieces by the goon squad. After a few days of this, the Telegram changed its advertised price to 5 cents a copy.”

In the early 1900s, newsboys were usually impoverished youths from 6 to 10 years old. Young boys, such as Charles “Chick” McGillis, staked claims to street corners with their fists. McGillis was dubbed “the fighting newsboy of Salt Lake,” and his windmill swing later propelled him to an amateur fighting career.

McGillis was also noted for his marketing ingenuity, thanks to his slogan: “If you’ve got a home, I have your home paper.”

Financier Russel L. Tracy led efforts to help poor newsboys for nearly three decades. Tracy’s group provided food, clothing and sacks of coal, as well as monetary incentives to help the boys stay in school. Eventually, his group built a gym that sponsored monthly wrestling and boxing matches, as well as canyon summer camps.

The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 upheld child labor reform, and by 1941 newsies became a part of a bygone era.