Music: Alan Menken
Lyrics: Jack Feldman
Book: Harvey Fierstein
Director: Matt Cole
Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Originally a Disney movie, Newsies has become a sensation, and now it’s arrived at Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre. It’s an energetically rousing musical, based on the 1899 newsboys strike in New York.
When publisher mogul Joseph Pulitzer (Cameron Blakely) raises the cost of newspapers in New York, the child sellers known as newsies are distraught. Many of them are homeless with no family to their name, struggling to stretch their minimal wages to meals even prior to the price hike. Natural leader Jack (Michael Ahomka-Lindsay) bands the boys together to form a union and strike against the new rules, encouraging them to swap papers for picket lines and take a stand against the bigwigs at the top.
At a time where many industries are fighting against working conditions, poor wages and inflated prices, the narrative sadly feels especially relevant. Their children’s crusade holds a powerful message, executed in a suitably emotively charged manner. Director and choreographer Matt Cole constructs the performance together brilliantly, utilising Morgan Large’s set design impeccably – from having the boys zip-line down on the stage and spinning around the room by the lightshades, its full of impressive imagery.
The cast work together in unison to stomp and tap-dance their way across the stage, each routine full of expression, energy and emotion. The venue is perfect for such a big, collaborative production, with many scenes involving the actors weaving their way through the audience and belting out Jack Feldman and Alan Menken’s original songs from all corners of the theatre. The panoramic experience immerses you even further into feeling like part of their collective fight for justice.
The high-energy performance however, is met with a relatively subpar plot, with many characters feeling underwritten and forgotten about. The brief sparks of a romance between Jack and Katherine (Bronté Barbé) are touched upon slightly, and other characters such as Crutchie (Matthew Duckett) and Les (Nesim Adnan) are not showcased in the spotlight as much as they deserve. What’s clear, however, is that this is a group effort. While they may not singularly have an opportunity to shine, together they are a force to be reckoned with, much like the characters themselves.
Moya Angela as Medda, is wonderful, and it’s a shame her time on stage is as short as it is. Her rendition of That’s Rich is performed with her incredible vocal talent – breaking up the band-of-brothers-style numbers up unto this point with powerfully contrasting femininity.
While singing show tunes at the picket-line alongside the RMT workers or NHS nurses may not go down quite as successfully as it does in Newsies the sentiment is there, so rise up, Seize The Day and Watch What Happens when The Bottom Line is collectively drawn.
Runs until 16 April 2023