We chatted to Matt about directing and choreographing the London production of Newsies now playing at the Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre.
Hi Matt – how does it feel to be bringing Newsies to London? There has been anticipation of this show coming to London for a number of years. To finally be able to bring it to London has been incredibly exciting. I was nervous that British audiences might not appreciate this American story but the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Audiences night after night fall in love with the characters. It is a thrill to watch them react in such a hugely positive way.
When did you first discover the musical? I had heard of the Broadway show and had become increasingly interested in it. I knew the show contained a large dance element and this really excited me creatively. I first watched the original film and fell in love with the story and the concept of dance within the story. It had a sense of West Side Story about it. There was something so visceral about the film and the story of kids going on strike and standing up to the giants of the world feels so universal and timeless. I just kept going from there.
What would you say the main appeal of Newsies is? The story. Everyone at some point in their life has probably felt some kind of unfairness or injustice. This is a simple story about standing up for what’s right against all odds. The idea that many voices shouting together can be heard. I think a younger generation can see themselves through the characters in the story and it gives them a sense of hope for the future. All this is then underpinned with high energy dance with some of the best dancers the UK has to offer. What’s not to love?
How did you want to approach bringing the show to London? I started with the venue. I had been inside Wembley Park Theatre when it was empty. Just a giant black box. I loved the space and thought it presented the opportunity to present large scale musicals in a slightly different way. The room feels industrial and has old gantry’s running around the inside of the falls. It feels without anything inside a little like the New York fire escapes. Newsies felt like the perfect show for the space. I then sat with Morgan Large, our set designer to come up with interesting ways we could utilize the space for our show. We wanted to create a playground that would thrill the audience as much as the show does.
How have you found the whole experience of putting the production together? I loved it! It was an honour and a privilege to be allowed to work on this show. It takes a team of people to make something like this happen and I was blessed to have the best creative team working on it. Everyone really cared about it…..very early on you got the sense this show could be something very special.
By Emma Clarendon
Newsies continues to play at the Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre. To book tickets click here.