Disney will bring the singing and dancing paperboys of hit musical “Newsies” to Facebook Live next week, in the Mouse House’s biggest project to date taking advantage of the social giant’s live video capabilities.
The live performance of the show’s hit number “Santa Fe” will be broadcast from the actual city of Santa Fe, N.M., featuring current touring cast members Joey Barreiro (as Jack Kelly), Morgan Keene (Katherine), Andy Richardson (Crutchie) and Stephen Michael Lanton (Davey). The event, starting at 4 p.m. Pacific on Monday, June 20, will be broadcast live on Disney’s Facebook page.
The Facebook Live broadcast will be produced by Disney Interactive Media, which has established a production team exclusively dedicated to producing broadcast-quality live video. The division has delivered Facebook Live content before, including red-carpet coverage and Q&As with stars of Disney movies (including one earlier this week with Bryce Dallas Howard, who stars in the upcoming film “Pete’s Dragon”). But the “Newsies” event marks DI Media’s first foray into creating a live, multi-cam musical production on social media.
“We wanted to do something that we feel hasn’t been done before, to create entertainment content for our fans on Facebook,” says Dan Reynolds, VP of content, social and programming at Disney Interactive Media.
Disney won’t be generating revenue directly from the “Newsies” broadcast, although Reynolds said it is partly designed to drive audiences to the theater. “The No. 1 priority is, ‘How do we use this platform as a new form of broadcast for entertainment?'”
For Facebook, driving up the amount of video content on the massive service has been a top priority. The company is even paying select partners and celebs to produce content for Facebook Live. In the case of “Newsies” broadcast, Disney is fully footing the bill. “It’s an example of the power and capability of the platform for the future,” Reynolds says. “We look at this as an investment.”
Why Facebook, instead of YouTube or other video platforms? Reynolds explained that Facebook is Disney’s top social platform by a long shot, with the main page garnering more than 50 million followers. “We have spent the last five years really building this network around the Disney brand, franchises and characters on Facebook,” he says.
The “Newsies” broadcast on Facebook Live will run about 20 minutes. It will be staged at in front of Santa Fe’s Inn and Spa at Loretto, which has “an iconic adobe New Mexico feel,” Reynolds says.
The show isn’t actually making a stop in Santa Fe, however. The Facebook Live event is timed for the show’s debut in Albuquerque, N.M., where it opens June 21.
The show, based on the 1992 film starring Christian Bale, has attained a cult following among millennials. “Newsies” was Disney’s most-requested show (prior to “Frozen”), according to Jack Eldon, VP of domestic touring and regional engagements for Disney Theatrical.
“‘Newsies’ has surprised us at every turn,” Eldon says. “Because of the demo who love this as their favorite movie, it’s been very active on social.”
The Tony-winning stage musical has been touring since the fall of 2014, and will conclude its national run Oct. 2 in Austin, Texas. Starting in 2017, “Newsies” will be produced through licensing agreements with regional theaters. The show’s music is by Alan Menken with lyrics by Jack Feldman and book by Harvey Fierstein.
Disney Interactive Media, which sits in the Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media group formed last year, creates content for about 250 properties across the Walt Disney Co. The Mouse House’s social channels have an aggregate of 1.15 billion followers across Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and Tumblr.