This production of “West Side Story” was a wonderful choice for SONG’s 40th anniversary show.
It has music written by Leonard Bernstein with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, from a book by Arthur Laurents, and in its score it has many iconic musical numbers, which include Somewhere, America, Maria, and Tonight, along with a poignant dramatic script and lots of energetic movement and dance.
The story is a romantic update of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” and revolves around a turf war and tensions between two rival teenage gangs the Jets native new Yorkers and the Sharks who are mostly immigrants or children of immigrants from Puerto Rico and is set in upper eastside Manhattan New York in what is called Hell's Kitchen an ethnic, blue-collar neighbourhood in the 1950’s.
The story centers on two lovers from the opposing sides who cross the chasm between the two sides, I have to say the story is still very relevant today and includes some very difficult subject matter especially for a young cast such as this one thus. making it a very challenging show to produce, so I must congratulate “SONG” and Director Karen Edge who more than did it justice by producing an excellent entertaining show and handling the subject matter with confidence and maturity.
Karen had at her disposal a very talented cast of young actors which included Ryan Harrison and Louise Millington who both gave very good strong performances as Tony and Maria, both singing well with confidence and Louise voice suited Bernstein's score nicely, they both played their roles with a maturity that belied their age and they also made a very believable romantic leading couple.
Charlie Jasmine Edge made an excellent Anita and sang Somewhere beautifully while Gabe Cardeira was spot on as Bernardo, Maria’s brother and leader of the Sharks, and for the opposing gang Ryan Gallagher gave a very believable performance dancing very well with lots of energy as Riff the leader of the Jets. There were also other very good performances from Thomas Corcoran as Action and Elliott Heap as Chino, Cara Whitney-Cook as Anybodys, Harry Corcoran as Doc, Georgia Harding as Lieutenant Schanke, Kitty Carderia as Glad Hand and Nathan Power as Krupke.
The principle cast were well supported by the actors in the cameo roles and by the ensemble who are very important in this show as some of them have named parts and play an important role in the success of the production, here they produced a number of interesting characterizations which were played very well with confidence. Generally, diction and clarity of words was excellent meaning the story could be followed easily, and all American and Puerto Rican accents were good and were maintained throughout the performance the cast must have put some hard work into getting them just right.
Choreography is a very important aspect in the success of this show and here it was just right for the production, was dynamic, complex, effective and was executed excellently with lots of energy by the cast for example in the numbers “America” and “Gee Officer Krupke” which were very well received by the audience, congratulations must go to Choreographer Victoria Harrocks and Dance Captain Faye Colebourne. The band led by Musical Director Charles Moss played Bernstein’s music very well with lots of energy, supporting the cast securely and the music was very enjoyable to listen to. The set, sound and lighting were atmospheric making a good platform for the cast to work on and there were very smooth transitions between scenes which kept the show at just the right pace. Costumes were spot-on and added to the atmosphere and the authenticity of production.
Congratulations to Stage Manager Andrea Claire and all the backstage crew for a job well done.
I must congratulate everyone involved in bringing this very exciting enjoyable production to the stage, thank you for inviting us we had a lovely friendly entertaining evening.