Newsies reviews at the Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre ★★★

Reviews are in for Disney’s Newsies at the Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre in London.

The show has music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Jack Feldman and a book by Harvey Fierstein, and on Broadway won Tony awards for Best Original Score and Best Choreography. 

Newsies is an uplifting tale of a defining moment in American history – the Newsboys strike of 1899 against Joseph Pulitzer and other publishers who tried to take more than their fair share of the young workers’ earnings, and Manhattan newsboy Jack Kelly, who formed his own union. 

The cast includes Michael Ahomka-Lindsay (Legally Blonde) as Jack Kelly and Bronté Barbé (Beautiful) as Katherine Plumber, alongside Moya Angela as Medda Larkin, Samuel Bailey as Specs, Imogen Bailey as Swing, Josh Barnett, as Race, Cameron Blakely as Joseph Pulitzer, Jack Bromage as Tommy Boy, Alex Christian as Buttons, Arcangelo Ciulla as Ike, George Crawford as Morris Delancey, Ross Dawes as Snyder, Joshua Denyer as Mush, Ross Dorrington as Splasher, Matthew Duckett as Crutchie, Jacob Fisher as Albert, Jamie Golding as Wiesel, Damon Gould as Finch, Alex James-Hatton as Oscar Delancey, Barry Keenan as Nunzio, Ryan Kopel as Davey, Sion Lloyd as Bunsen George Michaelides as Romeo, Mukeni Nel as Jo Jo, Joshua Nkemdilim as Elmer, Mark Samaras as Mike, and Matt Trevorrow as Henry. The role of Les will be played by Nesim Adnan, Haydn Court, Oliver Gordon and Ethan Sokontwe.

The ensemble features Lindsay Atherton, Bobbie Chambers, Kamilla Fernandes, Clarice Julianda, and Lillie-Pearl Wildman, with Zack Guest, Jordan Isaac as Swing and Bradley Trevethan as Swings.

Newsies is directed and choreographed by Matt Cole, with Set Design by Morgan Large, Musical Supervision, Dance Arrangements and Musical Direction by Nigel Lilley, Costumes by Natalie Pryce, Lighting by Mark Henderson, Sound by Tony Gayle, Performer Flying by John Maddox, Casting by Lucy Casson, Children’s Casting by Jo Hawes, Fight Directors Rachel Bown-Williams and Ruth Cooper-Brown, Associate Choreographer Jane McMurtrie, Associate Musical Director Chris Ma and Production Management by Lee Batty and Andy Fox.

Newsies is booking at the Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre until 16 April 2023.

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Average Critics Rating

Disney's Newsies reviews

The Times

"Spectacular dancing, but where’s the story?"

"If an audience can’t find thrills in the director and choreographer Matt Cole’s large-scale production numbers, hold the front page: “Living dead attend UK premiere of Disney hit”. As it happens, on final preview a youngish crowd greet Newsies so keenly they rise to their feet halfway through after the song Seize the Day. Even in this age of default standing ovations that’s unusual. And earned."

"Harvey Fierstein’s book and Jack Feldman’s lyrics keep the story moving. The characterisation never quite has room to reach a third dimension, though."

"Enjoy, instead, the scale of it all. The paperboys (and, eventually, papergirls) burst out into the auditorium. Morgan Large’s handsome set likewise reaches out beyond the thrust stage. As a spectacle, all good. As a drama, the emotional element can get relegated to the back pages. Jack and Katherine are so far away from the audience as they declare their love on the top of the fire-escape frame upstage that you look in vain for arena gig-style giant screens on which to see their faces."

Dominic Maxwell, The Times
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The Guardian

"‘Tis the season for Disney musical about industrial relations"

"This show about young New York paper-sellers has stirring anthems and screwball energy, even if it lacks emotional and political depth"

"Director Matt Cole builds a Jerome Robbins-style choreography from clenched fists and delicate jetés, stamped feet and dizzying pirouettes. It creates a sense of collective action, and the flashier moves mirror their wisecracks, but these occasionally acrobatic routines are oddly unemotional. There is a handful of soaring anthems (stirring music by Alan Menken, generic motivational lyrics by Jack Feldman, brassy punch from Nigel Lilley’s orchestra) and strong solos by Moya Angela and by Bronté Barbé as a rookie reporter who falls for Kelly. Barbé’s screwball energy matches Harvey Fierstein’s snappy book, which could have deepened their romance."

Chris Wiegand, The Guardian
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The Evening Standard

"Bristles with infectious energy"

"While the plotting is a bit formulaic, the message of this boisterous production couldn’t be more timely"

"An all-singing, all-dancing musical about workers going out on strike to fight for a decent living wage? The London opening of Newsies could not be more topical. Yet this is set in a different century, in a different country - if nothing else, it shows that where rampant capitalism is concerned some things never change."

"This version, directed and choreographed by Olivier nominee Matt Cole, bristles with infectious energy. It is corny at times – a romance between Kelly and cub reporter Katherine Plumber (Bronté Barbé) is both contrived and underwritten – but the gusto is irresistible, with the predominantly male troupe doing flips, leaps and some anachronistic breakdancing at the drop of a flat cap."

"If there is quibble it is the formulaic plot. You can quickly see how this is going to pan out early on. The first half is slightly overlong. It feels as if it should end on the euphoric song and dance number when they punch the air and decide to withdraw their labour, but instead continues and the energy dips."

Bruce Dessau, The Evening Standard
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The Stage

"Infectious sense of fun"

"Spectacular choreography and catchy songs elevate this Disney musical"

"Alan Menken’s tunes are typically tender and catchy. There are characters with names like Crutchie, who uses a crutch, and Specs, who wears specs. It’s turn-of-the-century Noo Yoik, and book writer Harvey Fierstein, tongue a little in cheek, never lets you forgeddaboutit."

"It’s not going to trouble Billy Elliot for top spot in the list of best musicals about strikes – there’s too little political reality here for that, including a triumphant win for the newsies, which, surprise surprise, didn’t actually happen. Instead, this is a vehicle for good songs, wry wisecracks and the most exuberant choreography this side of 42nd Street."

Tim Bano, The Stage
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"Disney’s cult classic musical about striking finally hits the UK – and it’s a delight"

"If you haven't yet heard of ‘Newsies’ (let alone watched the 2012 Broadway production on Disney+), it's kind of hard to explain the appeal of this peppy and thoroughly American musical. But imagine a cross between ‘Annie’, ‘Les Miserables’, and one of those elaborate gymnastic-based spectacles staged by communist countries and you're halfway there. And Troubadour Theatre's high-octane production captures all its vigorous spirit, sending its huge cast of plucky, rebellious paperboys tumbling and leaping across its mammoth stage as they stand up to the big bosses who are determined to grind them down."

"Matt Cole’s direction and choreography is a knockout: the billing as ‘immersive’ is a stretch, but there's something so thrilling about the way the sizeable cast stampede down the Troubadour's aisles..."

"‘Newsies’ is a perfect example of how a hard-working, perfectly synchronised cast can be a rousing metaphor for collective action of a more real-world kind, thrillingly embodying the kind of change the world needs to see."

Alice Saville, TimeOut
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The Financial Times

"Paperboy walkout makes for a striking musical in Newsies "

"... its depiction of what is essentially an exploitative gig economy feels uncomfortably familiar. Add to that a stirring story, a string of resonant themes and the sort of sizzling choreography and irrepressible performances that could burn through snow and you have the ingredients for a headline-grabbing hit."

"Cracking story, then, and some of the arguments could be ripped from today’s pages. But for all its galvanising spirit, the piece (music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Jack Feldman, book by Harvey Fierstein) falls short dramatically. Some of the characters are — pardon the pun — paper-thin: Pulitzer practically invites pantomime boos, despite a performance of sleek menace from Cameron Blakely, and few of the newsies have much definition."

"It’s lifted, however, by the restless, punchy choreography from director Matt Cole and the performances from the terrific young ensemble."

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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📷 Main photo: Disney's Newsies. Photo by Johan Persson

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