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Playing at Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre until 30 July 2023
The original production of Newsies opened on Broadway in 2012 and was slated to play only 100 performances but went on to play over 1,000 before touring and winning two Tony Awards, including Best Original Score. Now for the very first time, audiences in the UK have a chance to enjoy the thrill of one of the biggest Broadway hits of recent years. In an innovative and brand new production at Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre, theatregoers will be thrust right inside the action as the newsies dance, sing, jump and fly around the streets of a booming 19th century New York City.
Based on a true story, Newsies is set in New York City at the turn of the 20th century. It’s the rousing tale of a ragged band of teenage newspaper sellers, who dream of a better life far from the hardship of the streets. After newspaper magnate Joseph Pulitzer hikes up the prices for his papers charged to the newsies, Jack Kelly rallies his fellow newsies in an attempt to protest the change, falling in love with young reporter Katherine along the way. These young newsies from across the city come together and rise up against the exploitation of wealthy publishing tycoons and fight for justice using the only power they have – solidarity.
As our hero Jack Kelly, Michael Ahomka-Lindsay gives a charismatic performance stamping his own mark on this iconic character. Bronté Barbé as the defiant Katherine Plumber was a lot of fun and her Watch What Happens was an Act One highlight. Ryan Kopel gave a charming performance as Davey and Oliver Gordon as his little brother Les stole every scene he was in. As Joseph Pulitzer, Cameron Blakely gave a strong performance and was the perfect Goliath to the Newsies David. The larger ensemble danced, sang, jumped and flew (yes, you read that right) around the Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre stage with an organised frenzy that’s a thrill to behold.
Morgan Large’s set is vast, encompassing the whole Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre and as soon as you enter- you’re transported to that stylised nostalgic New York City we’ve all come to love. Presented on a thrust stage, Large has used the full height of the theatre with a three storied set, runways around and behind the audience, a loading dock swing and plenty of smoke for that gritty New York ambience. Newsies is known for being a dance show and director and choreographer Matt Cole, does not disappoint. Using the full space of the theatre, Cole has his cast charging up and down the runways singing and dancing through Robbins-esque balletic fight sequences, rousing tap numbers, climbing up ropes to swinging on and off stage from overhead lights. So impressive were these parts of the show, the audience leapt to it’s feet twice during Act One to show their appreciation!
I’m usually a fan of immersive, in-the-round or thrust stage performances, however as the space was so expansive, the cast so large and the staging all around the audience, I often found it hard to know where to look and due to this felt a disconnection from the story and characters. As a result of this disconnection, the faults and thinness of the book came to light in a way I haven’t noticed in other productions. I found the few moments of stillness and focused energy much more touching and wished we’d seen more of these throughout the performance.
Disney’s Newsies at Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre is a spectacle from start to finish. Fun for the whole family, make sure you have your chance to enjoy the thrill of one of the biggest Broadway hits of recent years in a new production that is truly unique. Seize the Day, join the fight and be the King Of New York at Newsies.
Reviewed by Stuart James