West Side Story

Wed 9th – Sat 19th March 2016

reviews

Clare Cavenagh

at 09:59 on 10th Mar 2016

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West Side Story, essentially Romeo and Juliet in New York, is one of those wonderful shows where everyone knows the story even if they've seen it before, and yet are still completely sucked in by it every time. With great set design, thrilling dance numbers and a super enthusiastic cast, this production of it is no different. Take tissues and a friend, and prepare to smile-cry through the whole thing.

The show opens with the band playing a lengthy (perhaps slightly too long) overture, and although this delayed the beginning of the opening dance sequence, it gave the audience ample time to admire the set design. The ADC has been transformed into a red-brick street of the deprived West Side, with fire escape stairways flanking the central apartment block. This impressive set also turned out to be remarkably versatile, the second storey sliding in and out of view to reveal the apartment inside, and the ground floor opening and closing to form the gym, Doc's Drugstore, and the bridal shop where Maria works.

Once the action got going however, the production was filled with an infectious energy that had feet tapping all through the theatre. Although there was a sense that many of the cast were not trained dancers (although some clearly, and impressively, were) the notoriously frenetic movement associated with the show was executed with great enthusiasm, and many of these scenes were spectacular - in particular the dance at the gym. Singing too was approached with great energy, and in spite of a few hiccoughs which I'm sure will disappear throughout the run, the singers on stage were confident and did really well.

Joe Beighton was a very loveable hero as the idealistic romantic lead Tony, pulling off his sometimes incredibly difficult songs really well. Laura Makhoul was great too as Maria, and some of her trickier sections will definitely fall into place for subsequent performances. Henry Wilkinson as Schrank and Colin Rothwell as Krupke were an excellent pair, providing both comic relief and added menace depending on the scene. Isaac Jordan was watchable and alluring as Bernardo, strutting about with a furrowed brow and his chin in the air - every inch the aggressive gang leader. But Megan Gilbert as his girlfriend Anita threatened constantly to steal the show. She overflowed with sass and attitude, danced the hell out of everybody, sang like nobody's business, and more than mastered emotional moments too.

Perhaps the one disappointing aspect of this production was the fact that it lacked a full, balanced band, and the musicians often struggled with the score. If, like me, you know the music from the Bernstein recordings, this could risk becoming frustrating. But the score is so demanding that this is a very unfair comparison. It's not going to sound like it does with a full orchestra of professional musicians, but no doubt the band too will gain confidence as the run progresses.

I spent almost the entirety of West Side Story with a stupid, musical-theatre grin plastered on my face. It was energetic, funny, often spectacular, inevitably heartbreaking. The cast threw themselves wholeheartedly at this production, and I can only recommend that you book immediately, before it sells out.

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