Newsies at Wembley Park Theatre
Newsies is the musical based on the true story of the newsies strike. It follows Jack Kelly, the leader of the Lower Manhattan newsboys. The newspaper, lead by Joseph Pulitzer, decides it needs to increase its profits so they increase the cost of the papers for the newsies. Jack soon declares that the newsies are a union and calls for a strike and the show follows them n their strike as well as Katherine, the journalist who covers it.
Newsies is known as a dance show and this production rightly did not shy away from this with choreography by Matt Cole. Seize the Day was the perfect example of this with the huge dance breaks providing some of the most stunning dance I have seen on stage and King of New York providing intricate and energetic tap. The cast are all incredibly talented with the dance combining tumbling, leaps and even aerial entrances leaving some of the audience to take to their feet mid dance break. It was the big dance moments that Newsies excelled at the most.
When the cast weren’t dancing there were moments where the show slightly dragged. Whilst the story is touching it was slow moving in places and there was little character development for many of our star players.
The hero of the piece Jack Kelly was played by Michael Ahomka-Lindsay. His has a voice perfectly suited for this role and his rendition of Santa Fe was one of the rare moments in the show where stillness succeeded. He played the role with bundles of charisma opposite Bronte Barbe as Katherine Plumber. Barbe plays Katherine as full of verve but despite both her portrayal and Ahomka-Lindsay’s sterling efforts you can’t help but not really care about them as a couple. Davey and his young brother Les, the new boys on the scene were played by Ryan Kopel and Haydn Court (on the night I saw it) and Crutchie was played by Matthew Duckett. Asides from these 3 newsies as well as Jack, the ensemble seemed to merge as one character wise. I would have loved to have seen more character from the ensemble to really help the audience engage with their plight.
A group of female Newsies also appeared in the second act and whilst I was pleased to see them reappear after a brief moment at Medda Larkin’s club in Act 1 I was unclear if this reappearance was a political statement or just a way of using the ensemble.
The set was focused around towering scaffolding which represented the high rise buildings that the newsies lived in. It also gave the cast an opportunity to use this as their playground as they swung, climbed and jumped off it as part of the choreography. It helped with the industrial feel of the show and the set designed cleverly used all areas of not only the stage but the auditorium, creating the feeling that the energy of the newsies could not be restrained to the stage. The only downside was that the venue was already so large that moving some of the more intimate scenes to the top of the tower removed the cast even further away from the audience and created distance that was hard to overcome.
There were small gripes with the sound, with moments of solo song or dialogue lost as the mics seemed to simply cut out but when this was not a problem the balance between the cast and band was well delivered, no mean feat in such a cavernous venue.
Newsies is a show for the dance fans. If you are happy to forgo character nuance in return for feats of ballet, gymnastics, tap and jazz then Newsies is one not to be missed.
Newsies is on until April 16th at Wembley Park Troubadour. You can find out more about the show and book tickets here.