Did Disney's Newsies deliver?
The long-awaited UK premiere is finally here, but what did the critics have to say?
Alex Wood, WhatsOnStage
"Credit must also fall to director and choreographer Matt Cole – utilising every inch of [Morgan] Large's set, his cast emerge from hidden entrances across the auditorium, hopping along the aisles and (once or twice) soaring in overhead. Bouncing between boisterous and balletic, Cole oversees a whirligig of visual splendour. Powerhouse moments include well-known number "Seize the Day", generating not one but two pre-interval standing ovations, as well as tap spectacular "King of New York", kicking off act two with a bang.
Kudos must also go to casting directors Lucy Casson and Jo Hawes – providing nearly two-score expertly-honed triple threats: "Seize the Day" basically feels like watching 12 Charlie Stemps take to the stage at the same time. If there's better choreography in a London musical right now, I've yet to see it."
Alice Saville, Time Out
"If you haven't yet heard of Newsies (let alone watched the 2012 Broadway production on Disney ), it's kind of hard to explain the appeal of this peppy and thoroughly American musical. But imagine a cross between Annie, Les Misérables, and one of those elaborate gymnastic-based spectacles staged by communist countries and you're halfway there. And Troubadour Theatre's high-octane production captures all its vigorous spirit, sending its huge cast of plucky, rebellious paperboys tumbling and leaping across its mammoth stage as they stand up to the big bosses who are determined to grind them down.
"This is a family show that'll dazzle secondary schoolers (even if its gee whizz, perpetually upbeat cast won't remind them of any real-life boys they'd meet in Double Geography) and shake adults from their lethargy with its undeniable energy."
Tim Bano, The Stage
"It doesn't hugely matter that the dialogue gets swallowed up in that hangar-sized block, or that the sound mix heavily favours the band over the already underpowered vocals. By the third or fourth big choreo scene, we've got newsies tap dancing on the table and swinging from chandeliers. The performers make Large's set a playground. If Cole can find a ridiculous way for them to make an entrance, he does. Somersaulting? Sure. Down a slide? Why not. On their head? You bet. Flying on a zip wire from the back of the auditorium? Yes please."
Chris Wiegand, The Guardian
"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.
"The complexities of the newsies' struggle may feel under-explored for adults, but as a primer on unionisation in our winter of discontent it's a refreshing proposition for younger audiences. And the victory of comradeship against corporate self-interest fits the season of goodwill."
Dominic Maxwell, The Times
"Harvey Fierstein's book and Jack Feldman's lyrics keep the story moving. The characterisation never quite has room to reach a third dimension, though. "I got poysenality!" announces the disabled Crutchie (Matthew Duckett), accurately. Similarly, the music, by the Disney stalwart Alan Menken, does the job without snaring the heart.
"Enjoy, instead, the scale of it all. The paperboys (and, eventually, papergirls) burst out into the auditorium. Morgan Large's handsome set likewise reaches out beyond the thrust stage. As a spectacle, all good. As a drama, the emotional element can get relegated to the back pages. Jack and Katherine are so far away from the audience as they declare their love on the top of the fire-escape frame upstage that you look in vain for arena gig-style giant screens on which to see their faces."
Bruce Dessau, Evening Standard
"If there is quibble it is the formulaic plot. You can quickly see how this is going to pan out early on. The first half is slightly overlong. It feels as if it should end on the euphoric song and dance number when they punch the air and decide to withdraw their labour, but instead continues and the energy dips.
Not quite hold the front page headlines then, and you might not stride out into the street determined to demand a pay rise in the morning. But the message of strength through solidarity could not be more timely."
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