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Review - Newsies the Musical

Updated: Mar 8, 2023

Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre

Writer

Harvey Fierstein

Music

Alan Menken

Lyrics

Jack Feldman

Director/Choreographer

Matt Cole


Synopsis

Set in New York City at the turn of the 19th century. A band of teenage newspaper sellers dream of a better life far from the hardship of the streets. After a newspaper magnate hikes up the prices for his papers charged to the newsies, Jack Kelly rallies his fellow newsboys in an attempt to protest the change.


Review

It has been over a decade since Newsies debuted on Broadway and finally, the UK audience is now offered the opportunity to bear witness to this spectacular show. Based on a true story that took place in 1899, as newspaper and publishing giant, Joseph Pulitzer, hikes the price of papers for his personal gains, the news boys and girls (the Newsies) of New York rally together against Pulitzer and strike for fairer treatments.


The highlight of this musical is without a doubt the dance and choreography. Matt Cole serves as both the Director and Choreographer of the Wembley Park production. Having watched the Broadway stage recording as well, one can clearly see the differences in the dance routines between the two productions. It is worth noting that the dancing is not restricted to the ground and at times, the newsies were airborne. One can imagine the effort and practices that have gone into the choreography to avoid any trapezing mishaps.


Among the many musical numbers, all of which serve their purpose for the relevant moments, only a few are memorable (“Santa Fe”, “Seize the Day”, “Watch What Happens” and “King of New York”), and there are a few versions of Santa Fe dotted throughout the two Acts. Thus, for me, the choreography is the determining factor that brings the production from good to excellent. Every single one of the dancing, singing and soaring newsies, of which there are too many to be named individually, must be thoroughly applauded. Rarely do you see standing ovations before the end of a show. However, this is precisely what happened at the end of “Seize the Day”, the penultimate number of Act 1.


Worth noting, the Brooklyn newsies are described as terrifying and is actively avoided by the main cast. When the Brooklyn newsies finally showed up, it was absolutely amazing to see that it is made up of a completely female group. Showcasing the toughness and resilience of women even in the harsh environments then.


The main cast, Jack Kelly (Michael Ahomka-Lindsay), Davey (Ryan Kopel) and Kathrine Plumber (Bronté Barbé) were breath-taking. From meticulous vocals to joining the dance of the major numbers, the three protagonists poured every inch of their soul into their performance. The trio portrayed three pivotal traits in this strike action. Jack’s leadership, Davey’s intellect and Kathrine’s wit and strategy. However, while I appreciate that Jack is meant to be less well-spoken than Davey and Kathrine, I would have appreciated a clearer diction and pronunciation from Ahomka-Lindsay in his numbers as it was quite difficult to grasp the words at times.


Morgan Large’s stage set is complex and manoeuvred with precision to create the different settings. In addition to dancing during the musical numbers, they showcase their talents as they come on and off stage when moving the props. One must question whether these newsies have a single moment of rest in the entire show and if it is entirely necessary to incorporate dancing into the set movements. As an added touch, the theatre is thoughtfully decorated. The entrance of the theatre is akin to a giant warehouse and as the audience steps through the door of the auditorium, they are greeted with the ragged living condition of the newsies at the time, giving them an opportunity to briefly immerse themselves even before the show begins. However, it should be clarified that this is not “immersive” theatre.


This story is a retelling of an important historical event, highlighting the desperate condition of not only the newsies, but also all underprivileged children at the time. Newsies is, without a doubt, one of the best musicals to have opened in London in 2022. From the meticulous staging and outstanding choreography, it is a spectacle to behold.

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