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Review: Newsies, Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre

Review: Newsies, Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre

There are shows that just NEED to be seen live. This is one of them. 


This just in – Newsies came to town.  

The Broadway hit has been beloved by legions of – predominantly young – theatregoers, and no wonder. It’s an old-style musical, with impressive dance and vocal moments, a huge ensemble cast consisting mainly of young boys, likeable characters and not too complex of a plot.  

Based on the real story of the Newsboys Strike of 1899 and adapted from the 1992 Disney film, it is a tale of a certain Jack Kelly leading dozens of paper boys – the newsies – to strike against the press magnate Joseph Pulitzer after he hikes up the prices for his papers charged to the newsies.  

The Broadway hit musical has its London premiere at Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre. The somewhat surprising location is easily explainable by the insanely massive stage that comes with the venue. The enormously tall set, inspired by New York’s infamous fire escapes, hovers over dancing, jumping, skipping, rolling boys – and some girls, too. Historically accurate plans to introduce more female characters to professional productions have long been in the making and in this production, Brooklyn newsies are all girls which additionally makes for an amusing stint (as Brooklyn is where none of Manhattan newsies wants to go spread the news about the strike – originally it was because they are scared of their leader, Spot Conlon and won’t even think of going on his turf). It is a shame that none of the female actors is credited as Spot Conlon, though.  

The cast is beyond fantastic. Michael Ahomka-Lindsay is a captivating Jack but Newsies is an ensemble work at its heart. It relies on the entire cast working strongly together to create the most intricate choreographies. They spin, slide above the stage, do plenty of tour en l’airs, swirl attached to lampshades and are overall completely compelling. Also kudos for casting Matthew Duckett – an actor with cerebral palsy – as the disabled Crutchie. He is both sympathetic and amiable, and so is Ryan Kopel as “the brain of the strike”, Davey. Both Moya Angela as a theatre-owner Medda Larkin and Bronté Barbé as a budding reporter and Jack’s love interest Katherine Plumber have outstanding voices and not very much to do in the way of the story.  

The biggest drawback has not changed since the show’s Broadway premiere – the plot is discernible albeit rudimentary. There’s hardly any tension at all, and the romantic subplot feels very much hammered in. I also still do not understand why act one ends with Santa Fe rather than the massive ensemble number Seize the Day – especially since the latter received a minute-long standing ovation. 

All in all, it’s very fun to watch – and extremely impressive. It’s one of those shows that simply need to be seen live, and as a full-scale, high-budget production at best, to be fully admired. And this production most definitely is one.  

Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre

Image: Mukeni Nel, Cameron Jones and Mark Samaras in Newsies. Photograph: Johan Persson