The national tour of Newsies is in Salt Lake City this week, and my fellow UTBA member Andrea Fife says that the show is a sheer delight. I saw the show in Toronto in August with the same cast, and I agree with her assessment.

But there was one thing I noticed when I saw the show: the script has an important math error in it. Below is a quote of a scene between Joseph Pulitzer, the owner of the World newspaper, and three of his employees during the song “The Bottom Line.”

Bunsen: I’ve got it! If we charge the newsies sixty cents per hundred [newspapers] instead of fifty . . .

Setiz: . . . They’d have to sell ten more papers just to earn the same amount as always.

Pultizer: My thought exactly. It’s genius.

20% cut in our wages? Let's strike! National tour cast of Newsies. Photo by Deen Van Meer.

20% cut in our wages? Let’s strike!
National tour cast of Newsies. Photo by Deen Van Meer.

When the show begins, the newsies pay half a cent for each newspaper, which they then turn around and sell for a penny each. Thus, their profit is 50 cents per 100 newspapers.

But if they now pay 0.6 cents per paper, then they earn 0.4 cents per paper they sell. This is a 20% drop in the newsies’ profits (0.5 cents – 0.4 cents = 0.1 cents, which is 20% of 0.5 cents). This means that the newsies must sell 25 papers to make up for their increased costs because 0.4 cents per paper * 125 papers = 50 cents of profit. Selling 10 more papers only earns the newsies 44 cents, which is not “the same amount as always,” as Setiz says.

Here is how I stated it on Twitter in August:

With Pulitzer cutting the newsies’ wages by 20%, it’s no wonder the kids went on strike!

As far as I can tell from my Google searches, I’m the first person to spot this math error in Harvey Fierstein‘s script. So, the math error doesn’t stop people from enjoying the play. It’s just my little contribution to the conversation about this hit musical.

Update: When I reviewed a local production of Newsies in December 2017, the math error had been fixed in the script. I asked the director if they had made the correction, and she told me that the change had come from Disney Theatrical. The math error is preserved, though, on the soundtrack and filmed version.