NEWSIES | London, Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre

The Tony award-winning 2012 Disney Broadway musical has finally arrived in London, in a new production by director and choreographer Matt Cole. The true story of the 1899 New York newsboys’ strike is told to us by a high-kicking, chandelier-swinging, male-driven ensemble, to Alan Menken’s irresistible pop-rock score.

The choreography is relentlessly jaw-dropping, and the show literally stops twice in the first act alone due to standing ovations. The only problem with this is that it paints the newsies as superhuman, flying over the audience’s heads on wires. It makes no sense for these child workers, who, according to the script, are crippled and starving, even before they go on strike.

The dangerous filth and degradation of the newsies’ living conditions is passed off as a lovable joke. The homeless workers seek refuge at a burlesque show run by Medda Larkin (Moya Angela), who sings lyrics laden with innuendo, but with any hint of sexuality bizarrely removed in actual performance.

Great musicals about historic child abuse and civil unrest, like Les Misérables (1985) and Billy Elliott (2005), are crowd-pleasing and family-oriented, but they are also dirty, adult, and frightening. Newsies does everything it can to impress the audience. But such an anodyne treatment disrespects both the audience and the revolutionary teens who risked their lives to change history.

Playing at the Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre 29 November 2022 – 16 April 2023.

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