Sunday, February 10, 2013

WEST SIDE STORY

Book by Arthur Laurents
Music by Leonard Bernstein, Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Directed by Anne Somes
Presented by Free Rain at the Q Theatre, Queanbeyan, February 8 - 24

Review by Len Power

For a Broadway show that opened in New York in 1957, it’s amazing that it’s still as entertaining and thought-provoking over 50 years later.  With music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by Arthur Laurents, the show takes Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and transplants it to 1950s New York and the gang warfare that was erupting at the time.  What was unusual was the amount of dance in the show, choreographed by Jerome Robbins.  In addition, the musical score demanded singers with a wide vocal range and the ability to really act the roles.  No wonder the show is considered a turning point in Broadway musical history.

Free Rain’s Director, Anne Somes, has gathered together an enthusiastic and talented company of young actors to perform this landmark show.

Nicola Hall 'Feels Pretty' as Maria
Nicola Hall, as Maria, sings very well and is quite convincing as the young innocent who grows up very quickly.  Lachlan Whan, in a role that has defeated many an actor, made Tony a truly believable character and he has the voice range to sing it, too.  However, he needs to take more care with his accent while singing, sounding too Australian at times.  Amy Dunham played and sang an exciting and sexy Anita and Zack Drury and Jordan Kelly played the gang leaders with the required toughness and bravado.

Lachlan Whan as Tony believes 'Something's Coming'
Other notables in the large cast were Beth Deer as Rosalia, who sang and danced beautifully and displayed her flair for comedy in ‘America’.  Sarah Darnley-Stuart, Linda Gledhill and Max Gambale sang an affecting trio during the ‘Somewhere’ ballet sequence.  Max Gambale was also very funny along with the other Jets in ‘Gee, Officer Krupke’.  The ‘Tonight’ sequence prior to the Rumble was exciting and well sung by all involved.

Beth Deer dancing and singing as Sharks' girl, Rosalia
Anne Somes kept the show moving at a whirlwind pace but the constant shouting by the gang members was a bit wearing.  More light and shade would have given more insight into their individual characters.  The costumes by Fiona Leach were, for the most part, pleasing and in period.  However the costume for Officer Krupke made him look like something out of a pantomime.  The set, made up of ladders and scaffolding perfectly evoked….well, ladders and scaffolding.  An abstract set is fine but this simply looks unfinished and adds nothing to the show.
 
It was good to see original choreography by Lisa Buckley that worked very well with only an occasional nod to Jerome Robbins’ original steps.  ‘Dance At The Gym’ looked a bit cramped on the stage but, apart from that, the cast handled the choreography with flash and precision.

Lachlan Whan and Nicola Hall as Tony and Maria dream of 'Somewhere'...
This is a pleasing production of an important musical which everyone should see at least once in their lifetime.

Photographs by Len Power

Originally broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 ‘Dress Circle’ program on Sunday 10 February 2013


1 comment:

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