West Side Story

Date 31st May 2018
Society Stage One Youth Theatre Group
Venue Ferneham Hall, Fareham
Type of Production Musical
Director Jacqui Ivemy
Musical Director Dennis Bromley
Choreographer Matt Newman


Author: Mark Donalds

The ever-popular West Side Story, loosely based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet but set in New York’s Upper West Side in the 1950s, had its Broadway debut in 1957, immediately stunning the world with Leonard Bernstein’s beautiful music and Stephen Sondheim’s complex lyrics. It bravely tackled the racial tensions between two street gangs: the Puerto Rican Sharks who are constantly taunted by the “established” white Americans, the Jets. It marked something of a turning point in American musical theatre and by anyone’s standards is a very difficult show to stage, with challenging choreography and vocals. Stage One is a group that likes a challenge and under Jacqui Ivemy’s confident direction, this huge cast of 45 has risen to the occasion magnificently and given us a stunning show of the highest quality.

The superb, flexible set depicted the back streets of New York well and scene changes were slickly managed by the stage crew, ensuring there were no interruptions to the fast pace of the show. The fine orchestra, under the confident direction of Dennis Bromley, produced a good sound and rarely overwhelmed the singers, who somehow coped with the difficult lead-ins to their numbers with consummate ease. Costumes were simple but bright and effective and, together with the subtle lighting, made a beautiful picture in every scene.

Matt Newman’s imaginative choreography was well executed by the cast, graceful and even balletic at times, and the fight scenes were most convincing. Every single member of the cast looked totally involved. Wherever you looked, there was something interesting going on - even away from the main focus of the action. Singing by everyone was strong throughout, accents were well maintained and the big chorus numbers were spectacular to watch.

Ethan Emery was a confident and strong Tony. His warm singing voice has matured nicely over the last couple of years and he was well matched by Sian Samways as Maria, who has a beautiful tone to her voice - their solos and duets were a joy to listen to. Zoe Elliott as Maria’s friend Anita, also sang well and had great spark - perfect for the character. Samuel Beer as Riff was spot-on with his character too, and Luke Marshall gave us a very stylish Bernardo (and the best Spanish accent). Charles Clark has real stage presence and really shone in “Gee Officer Krupke” - a great showcase for the talents of the other boys too.

In smaller roles, Siobhan Carroll gave a striking, stand-out performance as Rosalia; Brendon Cable-Rogers created two very distinct and memorable characters: Shrank and Glad Hand; and Kit McKenzie (Baby John) is surely a name to watch for the future: his confident acting and clear diction meant he could more than hold his own with the older leads.

What a fantastic show! The huge amount of hard work that has gone into this production has paid off in spades - you should all be immensely proud of what you have achieved together. It was a privilege and a pleasure to watch.