Troubadour Theatre, Wembley
Music by Alan Menken
Lyrics by Jack Feldman
Book by Harvey Fierstein
On its first transatlantic crossing, Disney’s Newsies rocks up in Wembley’s cavernous Troubadour Theatre.
It’s a solid socialist yarn, founded upon history and telling of how at the turn of the 20th century New York’s newspaper vending kids ( the “Newsies”) challenged the capitalist owners and publishers for fairer trading terms upon which the papers were to be sold. It’s a fine premise, but the yarn doesn’t easily stretch to fill a two-act musical, with Menken, Feldman and Fierstein lathering on layers of schmaltz in their tunes, lyrics and book respectively, to give the audience their money’s worth.
To further paper over the cracks, Menken’s score is used as the groundwork for breathtakingly balletic dance work, where director/choreographer Matt Cole deserves plaudits for the imaginative deployment of his company’s bodies. However this is Cole's first time in the director's chair and it shows. There is a shallow, cheesiness to the show’s dialog from the get-go, with Cole lacking the heft to raise the words to a higher plane.
The actors are all terrific with Michael Ahomka-Lindsay and Bronté Barbé leading in their corny and improbable love story. Above the stage Nigel Lilley makes fine work delivering Menken's essentially forgettable tunes.
If you want to be stunned by lithe young performers performing breathtaking routines, then the show is unlikely to disappoint.
Runs until 16th April 2023
Photo credit: Johan Persson