Stunning choreography and visual spectacle make Newsies a real festive treat at Troubadour Wembley Park
“This is not some little vaudeville I’m reviewing”
A musical about unions, in this climate? There’s a wry irony to Newsies opening just now, but it should be added that it is an actual Disneyfied interpretation of labour relations from the turn of the last century so those allergic to the mere hint of contemporary politics in their overpriced entertainment can rest easy. It also helps that Matt Cole’s production is often truly spectacular.
Troubadour Wembley Park is an absolute barn but Morgan Large’s hugely inventive set design absolutely makes the most of the opportunities of such a flexible space. Walkways through the auditorium, multistory street blocks, zipwire surprises and a huge sense of fun from Cole’s choreography as well as his direction mean that there’s constant delights bursting forth onstage.
The story follows the impact of newspaper baron Joseph Pulitzer’s decision to raise the price of his papers for the newspaper sellers, largely street-dwelling orphans, to buy them. The boys go on strike and that’s about it for Harvey Fierstein’s book, aside from a shoe-horned romance subplot in order to get at least one woman onstage in a halfway meaningful role.
Bronté Barbé does well but the show belongs to the newsies, led by Michael Ahomka-Lindsay’s Jack (truly a breakout year for him). This isn’t a show full of characterisation – if nothing else, the acoustics here don’t lend themselves to audible dialogue – but the cumulative visual spectacle is something else as marked by the mid-show ovations, a bit OTT for me but a treat nonetheless.