Review by: Paul Towers, 28/11/19
West Side Story, book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
A Made At Curve production directed by Nikolai Foster
At Curve: 23 Nov – 11 Jan 2020
“a huge, lively, energetic dose of 1950’s New York”
First produced in 1957 by Jerome Robbins, West Side Story is inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Two disparate communities, native New Yorkers and immigrant Puerto Ricans, battle each other for turf rights. Testosterone boils over and violence ensues. In 1961 it was filmed as a full blown musical to great acclaim. It has been revived countless times and, in these troubled days of out-of-control knife crime in major cities across the country, it is sadly still very relevant.
Star-crossed lovers Maria and Tony fall for each other despite the enmity of their respective communities. They sneak around surreptitiously, cementing their bond but the violence inevitably comes between them and tragedy strikes, boldly having the curtain fall without a customary happy ending.
The set by Michael Taylor, is a huge three storey edifice of apartments above a diner which rolls in and out. Most of the rest of the set consists of a huge rubbish dump signifying the downmarket state of the neighbourhood and a number of wire fences that create corridors and cages.
Director Nikolai Foster has created a violent, poverty stricken corner of New York where gang violence is the norm.
You would be forgiven for thinking that this all sounds very downbeat and depressing. Of course, like many inner city areas, a lot of the time life is hard. But the story is enlivened with some great comedy routines. Anita, Rosalie and Conseula’s (Carly Mercedes Dyer, Mireia Mambo & Abigail Climer) rendition of America is outstanding combining comedy and high energy Latin American dancing. Both Maria and Tony (Adriana Ivelisse and Jamie Muscato) have superb singing voices and Ivelisse handles the comedy in her character very well.
However, the superlative number for me was Gee, Officer Krupke, superbly choreographed as a burlesque routine in front of the curtain by Action, Diesel, Big Deal, Baby John and A-Rab (Isaac Gryn, Michael O’Reilly, Dale White, Alex Christian and Ryan Anderson respectively).
Once again the production benefited form the addition of members of the Curve Young Company who have provided two teams of actors to supplement the main cast
The choreography by Ellen Kane is balletic and very energetic while the creative lighting by Guy Hoare is both atmospheric and, in the Krupke routine, almost a character in itself! Kudos should also go to fight director Kevin McCurdy for very realistic combat routines.
As is pointed out on the flyers this story contains violence and themes that may be unsuitable for children.
West Side Story runs at Curve until 11th January 2020. There are special Access Performances throughout the run. Full details are on the website.