The Newsies on stage

Newsies leap into London

As with the newspapers that the newsies sell, this story contains spoilers!

As the sun rises on the streets of New York and the stage of the Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre, a quiet, pulsing anticipation resonates.

Then, suddenly, a newsie flies across the audience on a zipline, bursting the airy anticipation into an explosion of newsboys noise and audience exclaims.

The arrival of Disney’s Newsies on UK soil has been long awaited, after the initial Broadway run wowed fans around the world with its star bound gang of stellar performers and its dual tony wins.

Later filmed and now available to watch on Disney+, many in the expansive Wembley theatre had already witnessed the explosive dance scene that is Newsies: The Musical – but that doesn’t mean they were ready for the immersive, energetic night ahead of them. 

Inspired by the real newsboys strike of 1899, Newsies sees orphan Jack Kelly, with the help of school boy Davy and journalist Katherine, rally the newsies into a powerful collective force, fighting for workers’ rights and equal pay against Robert Pulitzer’s The World newspaper.

Heart-warming, impactful and maybe just what we need right now, the story alone reminds audiences what it is to be the underdog of a David and Goliath fight.

The Newsies on stage. Image credit: Johan Persson – Instagram @perssonphotography

Songs like “The World Will Know” and “Watch What Happens” provide eloquent examples of the power of words and the power of strikes, especially amongst the young generation of Newsies fueling this bygone era of social change.

Such strong messages are elevated by equally impressive choreography and staging, providing each performer with an emblazoned moment in the spotlight and each audience member with an often up close encounter with passionate talent.

No scene achieves such a memorable balance of performer and audience passion than “Seize the Day”, which pushes its way into the centre of act one with a rallying cry and standing ovations galore. Echoing in as a melodious chorus surrounds the audience, the surge into dance is electrifying.

Opening Act Two is an equally refreshing take on the” King of New York” which pulls off a dynamic tap extravaganza for the ears, eyes and the skies.

With a set that transforms New York City into a giant playground for the endlessly energetic ensemble, the audience was left gasping more times than I could count, as all levels and areas of the immersive theatre space were utilised.

Dancing effortlessly across this masterful set was an equally impressive cast. Every cast member works extremely hard, and there is no describing the incredible, yet graceful efforts of the newsies ensemble.

I was especially impressed by the Brooklyn newsies, whose brilliant and slightly unexpected appearance late in the game is absolutely show-stopping.

Driving this ragtag team is a lead cast of bright stars. Ryan Kopel’s Davy is a perfectly impassioned force for change, while little brother Les (played during my performance by Haydn Court) was just a ball of cuteness, providing lovely moments of humour and heart.

Bronte Barbe’s journalist Katherine shows off a big personality and an even bigger voice, while Matthew Dickey’s limping Crutchie injects the core emotional heart of the show – and both pull off spellbinding solo numbers.

But it’s Michael Ahomka-Lindsay’s Jack Kelly who’s the real hero of the strike. Stepping into the big and beloved shoes of Jeremy Jordan and Christian Bale, Michael’s take on the street rat/union leader/wanna be cowboy is fresh and powerful. He holds the fast paced numbers together with ease, leading the ensemble with an air of charm, passion and a perfectly loveable amount of sass.

His rendition of Act One finale “Santa Fe” feels familiar yet fresh, as the dreamy atmosphere builds supported by a perfect weightiness in both his cadence and emotional journey. A favourite of mine and many others, “Santa Fe” feels in good hands under Michael, who not only sings but soars.

A distinctly new production, the cast is still a little green, adding a real sense of authentic spontaneity to their experiences in the staged streets of New York. A few minor hiccups with microphones, sound mixing and harnesses never distract from what is, on all accounts, a fabulously seamless production.

Not only is this a musical not to be missed, but it’s a show that will be talked about. The long awaited arrival of ‘Newsies’ is timely, effective and bundles of fun, and with a talented cohort of young performers leaping their way into the West End, the newsies of London are ready to make headlines every night. 

‘Newsies’ is playing at the Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre until April 16th.

Featured image credit: Johan Persson – Instagram @perssonphotography 

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