This overblown musical about the strike by newsboys in New York in 1899 has some of the most energetic and fittest street urchins ever – the big production numbers for the boys, and in act two the girls who c ome out of the woodwork previously unseen, deservedly bring the house down, or rather up as the audience got to its feet. I am not sure it is dancing but it is certainly athletics. This being a Disney show Newsies is not all that great as a drama – the plot follows well worn tramlines, dashing hero, cute lttle brother, boy with a crutch to feel sorry for, and sparky girl for hero to fall in love with in spite of the fact that the cause of all the trouble is her dad, newspaper proprietor Joseph Pulitzer who has raised the price of his paper which the boys pay him by ten cents.
Alan J Menken has come up with a stirring score which gets played so loudly that quite a lot of the time one wishes the orchestra would take things down several decibels and let the tunes work. Maybe none of them are memorable but Menken is good at his job and when an anthem is required delivers one. However the fitness of those newsboys who do back flips, hang from ceiling lamps, run all over the place, tap dance on top of tables, clog dance, shove lots of props on and off the stage, dive between each other’s legs, charge down the central aisle tossing loads of papers one to the other, and never sit still let, alone stand still, for a moment while singing as well does somewhat undermine their plight – they are supposed to be poor boys struggling to earn some money for their poverty striken families not the athletics team from Bowery High. However they are undeniably worth watching even if – they have all been given names – one has no idea who they are.
As jack Kelly, the leader of the strike, Michael Ahomka-Lindsay, who has a fine voice, sings very well indeed and holds the stage as and when required,, as does Bronte Barbe as Pulitzer’s renegade daughter, a journalist who creates the story that makes the boys’ cause news. She also gets Kelly, which is about as likely as everything else on stage. But one does not go to a Disney show expecting social realism.
The theatre’s walls are covered with scenes from New York and there is the inevitable construction of steel scaffolding and staircases for the cast to run up and down at the back of the stage. The thought that the boys have to do it all twice on matinee days is frankly horrifying. The 1992 movie was a flop, but has since acquired cult status, but this musical version, here for a limited run, did well on Broadway – whether it will fill the hellhole that is the Troubador Theatre time will tell. It seems to be booking until April. It could have been topical in the current winter of discontent but this is sanitised stuff – Billy Elliot was far tougher. Still there is RMT the Musical to look forward to I suppose.
Jack Kelly: Michael Ahomka-Lindsay.
Medda Larkin: Moya Angela.
Specs: Samuel Bailey.
Katherine Plumber: Bronte Barbe.
Race: Josh Barnett.
Joseph Pulitzer: Cameron Blakely.
Tommy Boy: Jack Bromage.
Buttons: Alex Christian.
Ike: Arcangeloo Ciulla.
Morris Delancy: George Crawford.
Snyder: Ross Davie.
Mush: Joshua Denyer.
Splasher: Ross Dorrington.
Crutchie: Matthew Duckett.
Albert: Jacob Fisher.
Wiesel: Jamie Golding.
Finch: Damon Gould.
Oscar Delancy: Alex James-Hatton.
Nunzio: Barry Keenan.
Davey: Ryan Kopel.
Bunsen: Sion Loyd.
Romeo: george Michaelides.
Jo Jo: Mukeni Nel.
Elmer: Joshua Nkemdilim.
Mike Mark Samaras.
Henry: Matt Trevorrow.
Les: Nesim Adnan, Haydn Court, Oliver Gordon, Ethan Sokontwe.
Ensemble: Bobbie Chambers, Kamilla Fernandes, Clarice Julianda, Lillie Pearl Wildman.
Director & Choreographer: Matt Cole.
Costume Designer: Natalie Pryce.
Lighting Designer: Mark Henderson.
Sound Designer: Tony Gayle.
Vocal Coach: Hazel Holder.
Musical Director: Nigel Lilley.
Production Photographs: Johan Persson.