So this is perhaps my guiltiest pleasure musical of the moment, but who doesn’t love a cast of athletic men singing and dancing their faces off? The show is a Disney Theatrical Productions show and as such my excitability is playing right into the hands of the corporate machine, but let’s be honest, I have been doing that since I spent my childhood singing along to Andrew Lloyd Webber songs in the car and I regret nothing.
The show is based on the 1992 cult classic Newsies, with music by Alan Menken and Jack Feldman, and details the Newsboys Strike of 1889. They have re-arranged the songs from the film as well as adding new material. The original Broadway production transferred from the off-Broadway Papermill Playhouse in 2012 and lost out on the Tony Award for Best Musical to Once (a worthy winner). However, it did win for choreography (which is no great surprise if you have seen these boys tumble, spin and tap their way through the show) and for Best Original Score. What I also liked about the production and how they generally work in New York is that you go through open auditions as part of the casting; there is less need for an agent to submit you for work. Therefore, the majority of the young cast had their Broadway debuts when their show transferred to The Nederlander in March 2012. Even when it transferred it was only for a limited run, which they extended, before announcing in May 2012 that the show now had an open-ended engagement.
So as the show prepares to transfer to London in spring 2014, I was very excited to read that they held open auditions in June for the show. Whilst you do need to have strong technical dance ability and be able to sing well, you also need a playing age of 16-22. So there is a chance a young performer, who might find it difficult to break into the industry, will have gone and shone at these auditions. So say whatever you want about the ethics of commercial theatre and big corporations like Disney, but it is hard not to be excited at the possibility of nurturing young talent. Plus, it’s hard to ignore yet another show promoting dance and masculinity – seriously I’m going to need a fan or a hose when I watch it live next year.
My only concern is perhaps that British performers won’t be at the same level. I’m not sure what they feed them on in America, but some of the US cast seem almost superhuman in what they can do. This video of their Tony award performance last year is proof of that, particularly Ryan Steele as Specs (stripy shirt and glasses) who, for any nerdy fact gatherers, is now in the original Broadway cast of Matilda. I do hope it is a surprise hit here as it was for Broadway despite its very New York story and I am excited to see the casting for the London production.
Photo by Flickr user Ashley Rehnblom under a Creative Commons Licence.