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Review Roundup: What Did the Critics Think of NEWSIES?

Review Roundup: What Did the Critics Think of NEWSIES?

The production has come to London for the first time

Coming to the UK for the first time, Newsies is set in New York City at the turn of the 20th century. It's the rousing tale of a ragged band of teenage newspaper sellers, who dream of a better life far from the hardship of the streets. Based on a true story, the original production of Newsies opened on Broadway in 2012 and was slated to play only 100 performances but went on to play over 1,000 performances before touring and winning two Tony Awards®, including Best Original Score.

So what did the critics think of the new production?


Gary Naylor: BroadwayWorld: It's all delivered with tremendous energy, so much that it can be almost too much to watch, especially in the long first half which surely has at least one mass dance number too many - curiously so as the second half has at least one too few. The young ensemble fill the vast stage with director / choreographer, Matt Cole's mix of streetdance, ballet and acrobatics, making up with enthusiasm what they lack in precision. There are times when the narrative, never pacy, more or less gives way, and the generation who grew up on Strictly get the spectacle they clearly wanted on opening night - the rest of us wait for the plot to plod on.

Alice Saville: Time Out: 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, their feet making the seating stands vibrate and the audience's pulses race. Virtuoso displays of gymnastics bring an accomplished score by Alan Menken (composer of Disney's 'The Little Mermaid') to furious life: 'Seize the Day' is a feverishly catchy riot, performed in a wild tangle of tumbling bodies that feels like it should end Act Two (instead, more sombre, soulful number 'Santa Fe' does the hons).

Chris Weigand: The Guardian: 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.

Alex Wood: WhatsOnStage: No one will ever claim that Newsies is composer Alan Menken's best work (though it is, ironically, the first musical to win him a Tony Award - after the original movie won a Razzie) - its tunes aren't as memorable or as iconic as the likes of Little Shop of Horrors or Beauty and the Beast. But really, what makes this Newsies sparkle is the sheer scale of both set, choreography and overall vision: this is a kinetic, no-expense-spared showstopper that should make headlines across the capital.

Dominic Maxwell: The Times: The show ends urging a more conciliatory approach to industrial relations and the introduction of a fairer sale-or-return system for newspaper vendors. Who could argue? Along the way it slightly loses track of its young characters' fears and frustrations as it celebrates their defiant athleticism. If the storytelling were as sensational as the dancing, this would run for ever.

Bruce Dessau: Evening Standard: 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.

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

Photo Credit: Johan Persson



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From This Author - Aliya Al-Hassan

Aliya Al-Hassan is UK Managing Editor of BroadwayWorld. A London-based theatre critic and journalist, she has a life-long passion for the arts, with a focus on theatre and opera. She is a... (read more about this author)


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