I’ll admit it: I’m a little biased. Occasionally I’m asked what my favourite show of all time is – if the questioner is looking for me to give them my favourite play, it’s rather difficult to say for certain. But if they’re happy to accept a musical for an answer, it’s West Side Story. It retains a relevance over the decades that might just remain timeless even a century or two from now, though given some of the themes that it deals with, one can but hope that it would become more of a period piece of theatre at some point.
Even the Chief Constable of Leicestershire Police has his take on ‘Gee, Officer Krupke’ in the show’s programme, and while it was interesting to read his thoughts on it (drawing striking parallels between the New York City of the 1950s and the problems his officers face tackling crime today), it’s this production’s version of the song itself that truly impresses, so much so that it’s almost a pity not to be able to say much more about it, as doing so would be giving too much away. But it got the loudest cheer of the night from the press night audience, and deservedly so.
It’s the ladies, however, that give a striking immediate impression whenever they appear, not only because their costumes are often delightfully colourful (even if Maria (Adriana Ivelisse) protests at Anita’s (Carly Mercedes Dyer) choice of dress for her to wear, white and relatively plain), but together with Consuela (Abigail Climer) and Rosalia (Mireia Mambo), the ladies both individually and collectively possess a remarkable stage presence. To use the kind of vernacular of (some) millennials on social media: they smashed it.
Jerome Robbins’ original choreography is so iconic it can be difficult to imagine a number like ‘Cool’ being done any differently. Ellen Kane’s choreography for this production is stylish and energetic in its own way, however, and is to be commended. The show starts off a little slow – but then, West Side Story always does: before it hit its stride, I had time to count seventy-eight items of clothing hung from four washing lines at the top of the stage, seemingly to help give the scene a residential feel – make of that what you will.
A real treat here is the positioning of the audience – high enough to be above all the action, but not so high as to be unseen for considerable portions of the evening’s proceedings. George Dyer leads an orchestra of fifteen (though it sometimes feels as though they are at least double that number) with passion and precision. With a cast as talented as this, choosing standouts almost feels like an exercise in futility, though Ronan Burns’ Riff had a brilliant singing voice and Beth Hinton-Lever’s Anybodys, for several reasons, came across as all the more topical in an era where equal rights and equal opportunities is more pertinent than ever before.
The most convincing of gunshots, I tend to find when at the theatre, make the audience giggle as an after-reaction to shock, and it happens in this production: far be it from me to say when, though if you know, you know. Tony (Jamie Muscato) is a likeable presence – the kind of person you’d want as a friend, and here it is no wonder Maria stays loyal to him even after a major critical incident. West Side Story remains the real deal: the Act One closer is as hard-hitting as ever, the Act Two closer even more so. Leicestershire’s Curve Theatre has put on many good shows in recent years – this one must surely rank amongst its very best. A remarkable, astounding and outstanding production.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Inspired by Shakespeare’s classic tragedy Romeo and Juliet, a 20-strong company will be bringing the show’s timeless score including America, I Feel Pretty, Tonight and Something’s Coming to magnificent life on-stage with a 15-piece orchestra.
Directed by Nikolai Foster (White Christmas, Scrooge the Musical, Grease), this Made at Curve musical features brand new choreography by Ellen Kane (Groundhog Day, Movement and Dance Supervisor for Cats, Matilda the Musical), with Sarah Travis (Grease, Scrooge the Musical, Tony Award-winning revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeny Todd) as Musical Supervisor and set design by Michael Taylor (White Christmas and Scrooge the Musical).
Could it be, yes it could, something’s comin’, something good.
Filled with drama, passion, iconic musical numbers and dazzling choreography, don’t miss West Side Story at Curve this Christmas.
Director Nikolai Foster
Choreographer Ellen Kane
Set Designer Michael Taylor
Costume Designer Edd Lindley
Musical Supervisor Sarah Travis
Musical Director – George Dyer
Lighting Designer – Guy Hoare
Sound Designer – Tom Marshall
Casting Director Kay Magson CDG
Adriana Ivelisse and Carly Mercedes-Dyer will play trailblazing women Maria and Anita, who arrive in the United States from Puerto Rico looking for a new life. Adriana, a Puerto Rican native and 2019 Spotlight Prize Finalist, will make her professional UK debut as Maria while Carly will play Anita, Maria’s closest friend.
Jamie Muscato (Bend it Like Beckham, Phoenix Theatre, Lazarus, Kings Cross Theatre, Heathers, Theatre Royal Haymarket and The Light Princess, National Theatre) will play Maria’s lover Tony.
Jonathan Hermosa-Lopez (Grease, UK and Ireland tour) and Ronan Burns (Kiss Me Kate, Sheffield Crucible Theatre) will play rival gang leaders Bernardo and Riff.
Darren Bennett, who has appeared in numerous Made at Curve productions including Grease as Vince Fontaine (2016 and 2019 UK and Ireland tour), Scrooge the Musical (2017) as Mr Fezziwig and cover for Scrooge, will play Police Detective Lieutenant Schrank.
The cast also includes Ryan Anderson (Grease, UK and Ireland tour) as A-Rab, Damian Buhagiar (Grease, UK and Ireland tour) as Chino, Thea Bunting (Grease, UK and Ireland tour) as Graziella, Alex Christian (Oklahoma!, Chichester Festival Theatre) as Baby John, Abigail Climer (Grease, UK and Ireland tour) as Consuelo, Isaac Gryn (Oklahoma!, Chichester Festival Theatre) as Action, Beth Hinton-Lever (Hadestown, National Theatre) as Anybodys, Katie Lee (Matilda, Royal Shakespeare Company) as Velma, Mireia Mambo (Evita, Regents Park Open Air Theatre) as Rosalia, Michael O’Reilly (Dirty Dancing, UK and Ireland tour) as Diesel, Dominic Sibanda (Aladdin, Prince Edward Theatre) as Indio, Dale White (Grease, UK and Ireland tour) as Big Deal and Christopher Wright (The Ladykillers, Oldham Coliseum) as Officer Krupke and Doc.
West Side Story
23 Nov 2019 – 11 Jan 2020
60 Rutland St, Leicester LE1 1SB