I’d heard a lot of good things about Newsies The Musical, a Disney Theatrical Productions show – their Aladdin and The Lion King are currently playing in the West End. Having finally seen Newsies, albeit in cinematic form, it’s a surprise that this is being billed as the final opportunity to see it, supposedly forever. It certainly deserves a London run – the number of newspapers still in evidence on the streets of central London on any given weekday is an indication of how Londoners still like their newspapers – and the production values in Newsies are more than high enough to satisfy the standards West End audiences have come to expect from a modern musical.
I am reliably informed that the 1992 motion picture of the same name wasn’t a commercial success, simply because it wasn’t very good at all. This stage show adaptation is, irrespective of the movie, an absolute smash hit: I have never before sat in a cinema and been blown away (in a good way) as much by what I’d just seen. Move aside, La La Land – Newsies is, to quote Tina Turner, ‘simply the best’ musical cinematic experience since the Twenty-Fifth-Anniversary concert of The Phantom of the Opera was beamed from the Royal Albert Hall to cinemas across the country in 2011.
There may, I appreciate, particularly for those who haven’t been to a cinema to see a stage show before, be doubts about whether the shooting of a live stage experience would work. Here, the camera crew has done an absolutely splendid job – and I very much felt like I was watching an ‘as is’ theatre show. There’s even a (presumably inadvertent) shot of someone in the audience getting up mid-performance. But there are close-ups where appropriate, and there are more panoramic views for the big ensemble numbers.
The choreography (Christopher Gattelli) is frankly astounding. You may be aware of the mesmerising performance Charlie Stemp brings to the current London production of Half A Sixpence: imagine a whole group of young men (playing paper boys, of course) going for it with tap dancing, jumping and backflipping – and more – at that sort of standard. That’s what Newsies is like. This is a very American audience watching a very American show – the reaction to the Act One showstopper ‘Seize The Day’ didn’t seem all that overblown for me, and I’m sure I would have risen to my feet if I was there at the vast 2,703-seater Pantages Theatre in Hollywood and not in a cosy cinema. It’s one of their stories, based on true events, a reiteration of the American Dream, where even school-age boys can rally together and influence change for the better.
Jack Kelly (Jeremy Jordan) has a lot to deal with, what with strike action against the newsies’ belligerent employer Joseph Pulitzer (Steve Blanchard), combined with the difficulties of getting the word out across New York City given that there’s, um, a newsies strike going on. This being Disney, there’s a love story to contend with too, with reporter Katherine (a rather feisty and likeably confident Kara Lindsay) charming her way into Jack’s life, even if it’s originally purely for journalistic reasons. Various newsies are in various states of mind as to the best way to proceed, or even to proceed, and it’s a fascinating story with marvellous character development.
It’s a fast-paced show, insofar as the full Broadway-length musical was over all too soon, even with an ‘intermission’. There’s not a weak link in this cast, though the stand-outs for me were Aisha De Haas as Medda Larkin, and Andrew Keenan-Bolger as Crutchie, probably not the character’s ‘real’ name but so-called for not very imaginative reasons. The former is a bold and sassy lady, the sort of inspiration so beloved and so inspirational to the boys. The latter is the epitome of triumph over adversity; his musical number ‘Letter from the Refuge’ (as I understand it, added for the US National Tour, and thus not on the Broadway Cast Recording) was on a par with ‘The Letter’ from Billy Elliot the Musical for heartfelt expression.
Entertaining, exuberant, energetic and enthusiastic, this is not just another Disney fairy tale. There’s considerable depth to this astonishing achievement.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Audiences will be able to experience the Tony® Award-winning musical NEWSIES in cinemas for the first time when it makes its cinema debut on Sunday 19 February 2017 in the UK, Germany, Australia, and New Zealand following the US on 16 February and cinemas in certain other countries on or after 22 February. Disney Theatrical Productions is the international distributor alongside Arts Alliance Distribution, Ltd.
Based on the 1992 film and produced by Disney Theatrical Productions, NEWSIES, the Broadway Musical, features a Tony® Award-winning score with music by eight-time Academy Award® winner Alan Menken (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin) and lyrics by Jack Feldman, Tony Award-winning choreography by Christopher Gattelli, and book by four-time Tony Award winner Harvey Fierstein (Kinky Boots). The fan-following for NEWSIES became a phenomenon over the years since its release on home video, becoming Disney’s single most requested title to be adapted for the stage.
Inspired by the real-life ‘Newsboy Strike of 1899,’ NEWSIES is set in New York City at the turn of the century and tells the tale of newsboy Jack Kelly, a charismatic and rebellious leader of a group of “newsies” who dreams of a life far from the hardship of the streets. When publishing titans Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst raise distribution prices at the newsboys’ expense, Jack rallies his army of newsies to strike.
Jeremy Jordan (Supergirl, The Last 5 Years) will be reprising his Tony Award-nominated performance as “Jack Kelly”. NEWSIES played on Broadway from March 2012 – August 2014 and toured the US from October 2014 – October 2016.
To find a show-time near you and to purchase tickets, visit www.newsiesthemusical.comwww.newsiesthemusical.com