Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director & produced playwright (20 plays). Scripts published by Currency Press. She worked as an actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate is currently Convenor of Professional Writing & Editing, Swinburne University. Read her reviews here or at: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't always work on blog.
Sunday, 12 July 2015
West Side Story, July 11, 2015 ***1./2
Book by Arthur Laurents, Music by Leonard Bernstein, Lyrics by
Stephen Sondheim Produced by The Production Company State Theatre, Arts Centre
Melbourne, until July 18, 2015
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Review also published in print in Herald Sun, Mon July 13, 2015 and later online. KH
Side Story was first staged in 1957 but is still the perfect recipe of Romeo
and Juliet love story, New York hoodlums, a thrilling score, evocative lyrics
and audacious choreography.
In this inspired musical set in the mid-1950s, the
Upper West Side of New York is a seething hotbed of discontent, social
upheaval, racial tension and territorial skirmishes between two gangs of delinquents: Jets
The Sharks are recent, Puerto Rican immigrants while The Jets consider
themselves true Americans, despite many being second-generation migrants.
Laurents’ provocative story about disenfranchised
youth is complemented impeccably by
Bernstein’s impassioned score and Stephen Sondheim’s boldly witty lyrics in an unforgettable
repertoire that includes Maria, Tonight, America and Somewhere.
Orchestra Victoria, under Musical
Director, Guy Simpson,plays Bernstein’s score with fervour
icing on the cake is Jerome Robbins’ pulsating and ferocious choreography, recreated faithfully
by Michael Ralph in this production
directed by Gale Edwards.
highlight is Robbins’ dangerous, testosterone-fuelled dance that creates a
stylised but incendiary gang fight that leaves the audience gasping.
gang war between Jets and Sharks evokes a dysfunctional, urban world powered by
teenage angst, resentment of authority, unbridled passion and jealousy – a
world that is still relevant today.
Anna O’Byrne’s sweet, pretty, classical vocal
tone is ideal for the role of Maria, the protected, naive Puerto Rican girl
who falls for Tony (Gareth Keegan), the Polish-American kid from the rival
Keegan and O’Byrne’s duet of the thrilling song,
Tonight, is moving and passionate while Keegan’s rendition of Maria is affecting,
particularly in his upper register.
Unfortunately, there is little on-stage, sexual chemistry between Tony
and Maria, so some of their songs and scenes lacking the requisite ardour,
which in turn lowers the stakes for these star-crossed lovers.
Laryngitis is the natural enemy of the musical theatre performer so,
when it struck Deone Zanotto before
opening night, the inventive solution was for three women to play her role of Anita.
Zanotto dances the role but lip-synchs both her dialogue (spoken by Natalie Gilhome) and her songs that the
talented Amanda Harrison sings
This trio formula is astonishingly successful
in the sassy and vivacious, America (I Want to Live In), when Anita, Rosalia
(Bianca Baykara) and the Puerta Rican gals celebrate their new home.
Adam Fiorentino is seductive and fiery as Latino
stallion, Bernardo, while Sean Mulligan
plays his rival, Riff, with bravado.
Although the acting and Spanish accents are uneven and the production
lacks some of the driving energy expected of West Side Story, several cameos deserve
recognition, including Tony Rickards as
Doc, the voice of reason, and Glaston
Toft as dance host, Glad Hand.
The Jets’ chorus of Gee, Officer Krupke is entertaining because of
Sondheim’s inimitable lyrics, but it is not bold enough and misses the biting,
satirical edge of its social commentary.
The exceptional ingredients of West Side Story make any production
almost fail-safe so this version delivers despite its few shortcomings.
By Kate Herbert
Anna O’Byrne as Maria
Gareth Keegan as Tony
Anita as Deone Zanotto
Adam Fiorentino is Bernardo
Sean Mulligan as Riff
Neil Melville as Detective Schrank
Tony Rickards as Doc
Glaston Toft as Glad Hand
Rob Tripolino as Chino
Vince as Krupke.
Gale Edwards, Director
Guy Simpson, Musical Director
Jerome Robbins’ original choreography recreated by Michael Ralph.