BWW Reviews: WEST SIDE STORY, Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield, July 2, 2014
With recent theatrical revivals full of fresh interpretations and performances, Jerome Robbins' new production of West Side Story moves directly against recent trends and towards the origins of this story of heartbreaking love. Charged with emotion and passion, this production delivers a high energy, vocally stunning tribute from its large-scale explosive dance routines across to small, singular touching moments.
Set behind the history of tradition and passion, West Side Story follows the lives of two rival gangs and their desire to live by their traditions and each take control of the same area. But how far can loyalty go when one of your own falls in love with a rival gang member?
Katie Hall (Maria), recently seen as Christine in Phantom of the Opera (UK Tour), leads the piece as venerable, powerful Maria. An understated performer full of energy and powerful vocal ability, Hall delivers this well-known score with charm and brings you close to share her pain in the piece's finer moments: a classic performance.
Louis Maskell (Tony) matches Hall perfectly in vocal ability, passing seemingly through this beautiful score; delivering on every occasion: a great young talent with the occasional outburst of frustration and anger as the fight between rival groups unravels, the pair together creating moments of intense delight and raw emotion whilst remaining committed to an honest performance throughout.
With music, book and lyrics by Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Laurents and Stephen Sondheim respectively, and under the musical direction of Ben Van Tienen, the production is steeped in musical talent and delivered vocally by a cast of equal ability.
Leading the Sharks gang, Javier Cid (Bernardo) is full of passion and aggression, and on occasion finds his finer moments, mixing passion and loyalty, his ability to lead many dancers a great bonus. Lover Djalenga Scott (Anita) joins alongside as an explosion of vocal and physical beauty, leading through may of her scenes with passion and eventual heartbreak: a superb leading lady, mixing vocal and acting talent with natural flare, including a heartfelt embrace with Hall in act two.
American-born Jets leader comes in headstrong Jack Wilcox (Riff), delivering enjoyable vocals and continued pride throughout. He is supported by a full cast of great young talent, all mixed with excellence in dance and regular intervals to display their talents.
Moving from side to front stage, Paul Gallis' grand set design uses two towers of moving frames with added Romeo and Juliet themed balconies. Peter Halbsgut's lighting design adds a contrast of dark and shadow design across to bright and musically synced happier contrast, framing each scene simply and giving that extra fairytale touch.
Although sound issues occasionally made vocals strained in volume, the continuing energy and passion from the cast forgave any technical distractions.
Jerome Robbins' production is a stunning tribute to one of the greatest love stories ever told.
West Side Story continues at the Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield until the 12th July before opening at The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury on the 15th July.
Tickets available via: www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk
From This Author William J Connolly