WEST SIDE STORY @ Lyric Theatre QPAC, 7th November 2010 – Live Review

Review by: Pepa Wolfe

West Side Story, the classic piece of Musical Theatre inspired by Romeo and Juliet and conceived by Jerome Robbins, hit Brisbane this week in a flash of movement and colour.

Director Joey McKneely brings a wealth of experience to the Australian production, reimagining again as he has done around the world, this story of star-crossed lovers and feuding gangs on the streets of 1950s New York.

The rear projection of a grainy black and white still of New York City located the piece, surrounded by tiers of iron balconies, the simple scope of the design hinting at the grand scale of the drama that was about to unfold.

A vibrant production, of swirling movement, soaring vocals and rolling accents all buoyed by the full swell of the 19 piece orchestra, West Side Story maintains an intense energy during the group numbers, but wanes a little during the solo pieces. Both Josh Piterman as Tony and Julie Goodwin as Maria were in fine voice, but the outstanding choreography easily stole the show.

Particularly impressive were Rohan Browne as Riff, a highly charged role that gave the Jets momentum and led the song and dance with passionate strength and stubborn style, and Alinta Chidzey, who simply shone as the feisty, free-spirited Anita, every move, every word exuded confidence, intelligence and charm. They were beautifully realised, the sheer athleticism of these two roles combined with the emotional impact of their respective journeys, leaving a lasting impression.

The moving set, like the looming shell of weathered time and the cage of fate surrounding them, gave a sense of otherworldliness, of heighted drama, while the costumes provided both simple symbolism and distinct character, clashing and combining across the stage to create a potent array, visually igniting the passion of the human story.

The supporting cast were stand-out, every player at the top of their game, at turns comedic, at turns tragic, physically embodying the gamut from desperation to united joy. The dance hall scene was thrilling and made you want to get up and dance, the excitement and the tension in the air, just magic.

From a show that’s brimming with well loved musical numbers, highlights included ‘America’, where Anita and the Shark girls squabble and rejoice at the many opportunities the United States afford them. The comedy is adorable, the politics pointed and the dancing exhilarating. In the second act ‘Gee, Officer Krupke’ by Action and the Jets did much to endear these violent hoodlums to the audience and to shed a shining light on their desperate cycle. Numbers like these are the very epitome of Musical Theatre as artistic expression and social commentary, where the genius of composer Leonard Bernstein, lyricist Stephen Sondheim and choreographer Jerome Robbins truly resonate.

It’s easy to see why West Side Story is considered a classic of Musical Theatre, and this production delivers on a grand scale. It’s exciting, impressive, it entertains and enthrals. A fantastic night at the theatre.

West Side Story plays at the Lyric Theatre, QPAC until the 5th of December.

Based on a Conception of JEROME ROBBINS,
Director – JOEY McKNEELY

Review by: Pepa Wolfe

* WEST SIDE STORY @ Lyric Theatre, QPAC Brisbane 4 Nov-5 Dec 2010 – [Theatre News]

More articles by Pepa Wolfe:
* The Story of the Miracles at Cookie’s Table @ Cremorne Theatre, QPAC 15th October 2010 – [Live Review]
* Sylvia by A.R. Gurney – Brisbane Arts Theatre, 11th September 2010 – [Live Review]
* Rock for the Regent! 2 @ The Globe Theatre, Fortitude Valley – Saturday 10th July 2010 [Live Review]
* Northern Brisbane Rollers Derby League – Season Two Bout One [Live Review]