West Side Story. Nice Swan Theatre Company.
Writer: Jerome Robbins
Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim
Music : Leonard Bernstein
Producer: Jamie Gray
Director: Ben Hunt
Reviewer: Michael Hunter
We all know the premise of West Side Story – Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet with guns, the odd laugh and a cracking soundtrack. This time it is Newcastle’s Nice Swan Theatre Company’s turn to add their contemporary twist to matters.
Beginning at the end we see the fatal shooting of Tony, his last dying moments being comforted by Maria, the girl that he should not have crossed the divide for. Territory, race and the way of life should have stopped these two meeting, never mind falling in love.
Set in New York in the Late 50’s West Side Story is about power, and road to getting it. Nobody should stop in the path of whoever seeks for it. The Americans don’t like the Puerto Ricans and vice versa. Tribalism and violence combine to make a heady clouded and disillusioned path. Angry words and gestures magnify and take over. Life threatening actions.
This was my second glimpse of NSTC, having previously reviewed and loved their version of Spring Awakening almost a year ago, but my very first viewing of WST, not even on the big screen or in the comfort of my own living room. So I was very interested to know much it was going to differ from Spring…
Well in Spring Awakening the acting was second to none: the musical score that accompanied it fitted in very well. Tonight I couldn’t fault the acting Sean Gray (Tony), Carly Burns ( Maria) and the standout star in my humble opinion Jessica Brady (Anita) along with the others in the twenty strong cast, all played a blinder, but the music didn’t float my boat. It was edgy and generous, but a bit flat at times. The brilliant staging of the orchestra, right over the blank canvas of the stage, should have made more of an impact to feed our imaginations. Maybe it was supposed to sound like that, if it was then far too contemporary for my liking!
As I said before the soundtrack is great, songs like ‘Maria’, ‘America’, ‘I Feel Pretty’, ‘Somewhere’ and the stupendous ‘Gee Officer Krupke’ were all sung brilliantly by the cast.
I did like the staging, from the neon signs to the graffiti on the walls, this was very much in the era that it was presented, lighting and sound were never far away from the mark.
All in all a great opening night, I think the girl who was sitting beside me in the audience should have been on stage, she sang, she noticed bits that were missing, she even cried at the fatal scenes. She would probably give it four stars too.
Runs until Saturday