I first saw West Side Story in the original London production with George Chakiris in 1958 - I'd like to say I was wheeled in as a prem. baby but you wouldn't believe me - which is perhaps why it's always been my favourite musical. The community college production at Frome's Merlin Theatre was a wonderful way to revisit and rediscover the energy and passion as well as the songs of this classic Romeo & Juliet re-enaction.
Claudia Pepler-Berry's production rightly, and creatively, emphasises the youthfulness of these protagonists – the first rumble is like a playground scrap, and When you’re a Jet not so much macho aggression as a chant for a tribe of Lost Boys: “Without a gang you’re an orphan" says Riff, their charismatic leader.
The two key ensemble pieces were simply brilliant, the girls bringing the feisty exuberance of a hen-night romp to I like to be in America, and an inventive wittiness as well as high energy in the boys’ show-piece Officer Krupke.
And then there's the young lovers, whose duets created such a sense of quintessential romance I could hear sobs all around me: Ben Macfadyen as Tony looking like a young James Dean and singing with charm and confidence. Kara Horler as Anita was outstanding too, and I loved the cameo role of Howard Vause the cowardly lion, now in glasses & tanktop working as a youth club leader in downtown Manhattan.
(Thanks Mike for the images)
And here's that ONE AND OTHER link for Saturday 4-5, to see whether I need my brolly and bin-bags for my Trafalgar Square plinthathon: all about words, mine and maybe yours...