Times change and so do presentation methods in the theatrical arts. As today’s audiences are struck and excited by on stage innovative story-telling via the likes of Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen and Amélie the musical so were the original stage and film audiences of West Side Story. The show is still considered one of the most radical musicals of all time with its original Jerome Robbins’ choreography progressing the form around pressing social issues of integration and immigration and grappling with urban violence and inter-racially forbidden love.
Bernstein’s gloriously symphonic score is suffused with the raw music of the city, with life and with romance. It is mixed with a Puerto Rican vibe and urban syncopations that can be historically linked to classic composers like Claude Debussy who experimented with the sounds of their music to include tonal and percussive allusions to street traffic and busy urban spaces. Now that the West Side Story licence has been relaxed director Nikolai Foster and choreographer Ellen Kane’s new vision can be fully appreciated for what it is – an extra-ordinarily engrossing, startling and moving work of musical theatre that is still very much relatable today.
The base creative pedigree is impressive enough to start with and the show must be a daunting prospect for any theatre to take on. West Side Story was created by theatre industry giants; Jerome Robbins, Arthur Laurents, Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim. This Made At Curve production does all of those legends justice and so much more.
Nikolai Foster’s electric and deeply thoughtful direction creates visual and aural poetry on stage and is not without a fair dash of urban humour in the lighter moments. Ellen Kane’s dynamically fresh and muscular choreography is beyond exciting and stunningly executed by the whole ensemble. We love the collective ingredients of Michael Taylor’s sublimely inventive and physically awe inspiring set. Edd Lindley gives us beautiful period costumes, Guy Hoare ‘s incredible lighting design works a treat as does the pin sharp sound by Tom Marshall. Kevin McCurdy’s work as fight director is gritty and realistic and deserves applause. The rumble scene is frighteningly real as is the gang rape.
A musical of this grandeur needs a top class orchestra to match. We certainly have that with Sarah Travis as musical supervisor and George Dyer as musical director and the fantastic Curve orchestra blowing the socks off the score. Its sudden en mass and golden lit appearance above and behind the action and dance during the Dance At The Gym Blues/Mambo/Cha-Cha scene is almost cinematic.
This 2019-2020 Curve production of West Side Story is graced with terrific performances and singing. Those in the audience who are familiar with the show and it’s songs such as America, Something’s Coming, Jet Song, Cool, One Hand – One Heart, Tonight, I Feel Pretty, Somewhere, A Boy Like That and Gee Officer Krupke are amply rewarded by this talented cast and their renditions. Not to take away from the danger and romance of it all but Gee Officer Krupke gets a massive round of applause tonight for its clever and highly amusing front of curtain depiction.
The pairing of Adriana Ivelisse and Jamie Muscato as the romantic leads Maria and Tony is casting heaven. Their acted and sung portrayal as two young people from opposite ends of the world falling sweetly and instantly in love, despite the odds, is heart-breakingly beautiful. Carly Mercedes Dyer makes a very impressive and very human Anita who vocally wows us with her A Boy Like That and America. This is a young cast, as it should be, but we also get two stand-out performances from older actors Christopher Wright as Officer Krupke and Doc and Darren Bennett as Shrank and Glad Hand. The Curve Young Company give the show great energy and pizzazz in the three sections where they are involved.
Ronan Burns (Riff), Issac Gryn (Action), Ryan Anderson (A-Rab), Alex Christian (Baby John), Dale White (Big Deal), Michael O’Reilly (Diesel) and Beth Hinton-Lever (Anybody’s) all deliver big time as the defensive and hot-headed New York Jets gang.
Thea Bunting (Graziella), Katie Lee (Velma), Jonathan Hermosa Lopes (Bernardo), Damian Buhagiar (Chino), Richard Appiah-Sarpong (Pepe), Dominic Sibanda (Indio) and Mireia Mambo (Rosalia) bring Puerto Rican vulnerability and passion to the table and sing and dance up a storm.
Curve’s West Side Story is the most powerful piece of Made At Curve musical theatre to sing and dance itself into a fundamentally fabulously feisty fury in recent history. It combines humour, credible personalities and relationships, incredible performances throughout, fantastic song and dance and the doomed romance of a 1950’s Romeo and Juliet. The, direction, visual styling and aural and vocal offerings are truly stunning. What’s not to like? And you get to take home all the songs that will live in your head forever. “Mambo!”
West Side Story runs at Curve until at 11 Jan 2020
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