Newsies, Troubadour Theatre | Review

Friday 9 December 2022

Troubadour Theatre
Reviewed on Thursday 8th December 2022 by Olivia Mitchell 

As temperatures soar below zero, the heat is definitely up at the Troubadour theatre in Wembley as their long awaited production of Newsies sizzles and soars.

The musical with a book by Harvey Fierstein has become somewhat of a cult classic in the musical theatre world, with many fans around the globe despite the show only previously being performed in America and Canada. The 2017 Broadway pro-shot brought the show within touching distance but now London finally get to see it in the flesh, and the good news is, it was completely worth the wait. 

Telling the story of the New York Newboys and Girls who went on strike over unfair work conditions, it’s an unlikely plot for a musical but it mostly works so well. More than anything this is a show with dance at its core and it’s quite astounding to see so many talented dancers on stage, even more so when you hear their divine vocals which accompany the moves. Matt Cole’s choreography is fierce, sharp and so so strong. The energy and precision is truly mesmerising to see and is so appreciated by the audience who give several standing ovations throughout.

It's the plot of this show which lets it down somewhat. The pretty formulaic story doesn't exactly thrill and whilst it does touch on important issues, there's a lack of depth so you don't fully connect with the characters and their plight. Due to this there are moments where the pacing feels a bit slow, however this is quickly fixed every time a big dance number is performed. 

What is great is that despite some stilted moments in the story, the show as a whole is continuously moving. Morgan Large's semi-immersive set allows for action to be taking place at all times, whether through actors walking along sides or quite literally soaring into the audience. The grey-toned backdrop somehow feels gloriously colourful as various shades leap across the stage. The multi-level design allows for varying sight lines and there's something to discover in every nook and cranny. Mark Henderson's lighting design works in complete harmony with all of this and really brings some wow moments to life; it's a very well oiled machine.

The incredibly strong cast who make up this show (and must have a physio bill to rival any other) are the beating heart of it all. The varying characters of the Newsies all get small moments to shine and their interactions are very touching to watch. Leading the pack Michael Ahomka-Lindsay is charming as Jack Kelly, at moments too cool for school, and others afraid of his circumstance, his performance is really moving. Alongside him BrontĂ© BarbĂ© is sparky and witty as Katherine Plumber; her performance of Watch What Happens is a real stand out (although it could be a touch faster) and her portrayal of the role allows you to really engage and connect with her. Ryan Kopel as new newsboy Davey is delightful too. 

This has got to be one of the strongest casts in theatre right now and the astounding performances really need to be seen to be believed. Newsies is a hugely welcome addition to the London theatre scene and it's sure to delight anyone who sees it!

photo credit: Johan Persson