BWW Review: WEST SIDE STORY, Curve Leicester
West Side Story is probably one of the most iconic of all musicals. Inspired by Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, the story is set against a backdrop of 1950s Upper West State New York and centres on rival gangs, the Jets and Sharks, and two young lovers who are drawn together from opposite sides of the tracks. Curve Leicester has chosen the Tony Award-winning show for their Christmas production this year.
Michael Taylor's set shows the Curve in the most raw state I've seen it. There is no lavishness to be found; instead, a ginormous, breeze block-style framework of a three-storey building that tracks on and partially offstage, plus a mountain of debris in the upstage right corner. There are also some portable wire-mesh fencing panels, which are wheeled around the stage to create other settings. The design uses the vast expanse of the Curve stage in its entirety, leaving very little backstage space to work with.
Leonard Bernstein's unrivalled score is fully realised by the orchestra, led by Musical Director George Dyer, who are located on a high platform at the back of the stage. This lends itself brilliantly to the show, as they are revealed at pinnacle moments including "The Dance At The Gym" - which is visually incredible alongside Ellen Kane's sensational choreography being delivered below.
Artistic Director of Curve and director of the piece, Nikolai Foster, can always be relied on to provide audiences with an original yet respectful production - something that is echoed in all of the Made In Curve shows - and West Side Story is no exception. The creative team around him manage to bring his vision to life and here, he has directed a fast-paced, exciting new production.
My only criticism is that the show seems to have been condensed somewhat. It is very rare that I wish a show was longer, but in this instance, I felt it needed to be to allow the actors enough time for their character arcs. The first half packs a real punch, but it peaks at the end of Act One and has nowhere to then go in the second act, when it needs to keep growing.
However, as previously mentioned, Ellen Kane's choreography is thrilling and the talented company attack the material from start to finish with unbelievable energy levels. "Cool" is a standout moment, as it incorporates chairs and stools into the routine and is incredibly slick. I was hoping "America" would have been a bigger number by means of additional cast members, but the three girls who perform it still receive one of the biggest applauses of the evening.
West Side Story is an ensemble piece and, as a unit, the company is rock solid. Jamie Muscato playing Tony is well cast and manages the tricky score with ease during "Maria" and "Tonight" in particular. Both he and Adrianna Ivelisse as Maria have a joyful youth about them and superb chemistry. Ivelisse is from Puerto Rico originally and her performance shows she is duly suited to the role. Carly Mercedes Dyer should also be commended for her sassy and dominant performance as Anita.
Whilst there is room to grow, the foundations of this production are excellent, and I would watch it again in a heartbeat.