2016 – West Side Story

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West Side Story is an American musical with a book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernsteinlibretto by Stephen Sondheim, and conception and choreography by Jerome Robbins.[1] It was inspired by William Shakespeare‘s play Romeo and Juliet.

The story is set in the Upper West Side neighborhood in New York City in the mid-1950s, an ethnic, blue-collar neighborhood. (In the early 1960s much of the neighborhood would be cleared in an urban renewal project for the Lincoln Center, changing the neighborhood’s character.)[2][3] The musical explores the rivalry between the Jets and the Sharks, two teenage street gangs of different ethnic backgrounds. The members of the Sharks, from Puerto Rico, are taunted by the Jets, a white gang.[4] The young protagonist, Tony, a former member of the Jets and best friend of the gang leader, Riff, falls in love with Maria, the sister of Bernardo, the leader of the Sharks. The dark theme, sophisticated music, extended dance scenes, and focus on social problems marked a turning point in American musical theater. Bernstein’s score for the musical includes “Something’s Coming”, “Maria“, “America“, “Somewhere“, “Tonight“, “Jet Song”, “I Feel Pretty”, “A Boy Like That“, “One Hand, One Heart”, “Gee, Officer Krupke“, and “Cool“.

The original 1957 Broadway production, directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins and produced by Robert E. Griffith and Harold Prince, marked Sondheim’s Broadway debut. It ran for 732 performances before going on tour. The production was nominated for six Tony Awards including Best Musical in 1957,[5] but the award for Best Musical went to Meredith Willson‘s The Music Man. Robbins won the Tony for his choreography and Oliver Smith won for his scenic designs. The show had an even longer-running London production, a number of revivals and international productions. A 1961 musical film of the same name, directed by Robert Wise and Robbins, starred Natalie WoodRichard BeymerRita MorenoGeorge Chakiris and Russ Tamblyn. The film was nominated for eleven Academy Awards and won ten, including George Chakiris for Supporting ActorRita Moreno for Supporting Actress, and the Best Picture.

 

WEST SIDE STORY  

Performance Dates: 23rd February 2016 – 27th February 2016  – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Production Team

  • Director: Alasdair Hawthorn
  • Musical Director: Sean Stirling
  • Choreographer: Marion Baird
  • Accompanist: Alan Fleming-Baird

Synopsis

Act 1

Two rival teenage gangs, the Jets (White) and the Sharks (Puerto Rican), struggle for control of the neighborhood somewhere in the Upper West Side of New York City amidst the police (Prologue). They are warned by Lt. Schrank and Officer Krupke to stop fighting on their beat. The police chase the Sharks off, and then the Jets plan how they can assure their continued dominance of the street. The Jets’ leader, Riff, suggests setting up a rumble with the Sharks. He plans to make the challenge to Bernardo, the Sharks’ leader, that night at the neighborhood dance. Riff wants to convince his friend and former member of the Jets, Tony, to meet the Jets at the dance. Some of the Jets are unsure of his loyalty, but Riff is adamant that Tony is still one of them (“Jet Song”). Riff meets Tony while he’s working at Doc’s Drugstore to persuade him to come. Tony initially refuses, but Riff wins him over. Tony is convinced that something important is round the corner (“Something’s Coming”).

Maria works in a bridal shop with Anita, the girlfriend of her brother, Bernardo. Maria has just arrived from Puerto Rico for her arranged marriage to Chino, a friend of Bernardo’s. Maria confesses to Anita that she is not in love with Chino. Anita makes Maria a dress to wear to the neighborhood dance.

The Shark girls extol the virtues of “America” in Portland Center Stage‘s production of West Side Story in 2007.

At the dance, after introductions, the teenagers begin to dance; soon a challenge dance is called (“Dance at the Gym”), during which Tony and Maria (who aren’t taking part in the challenge dance) see each other across the room and are drawn to each other. They dance together, forgetting the tension in the room, fall in love, and kiss, but Bernardo pulls his sister from Tony and sends her home. Riff and Bernardo agree to meet for a War Council at Doc’s, a drug store which is considered neutral ground, but meanwhile, an infatuated and happy Tony finds Maria’s building and serenades her outside her bedroom (“Maria”). She appears on her fire escape, and the two profess their love for one another (“Tonight“). Meanwhile, Anita, Rosalia, and the other Shark girls discuss the differences between the territory of Puerto Rico and the mainland United States of America, with Anita defending America, and Rosalia yearning for Puerto Rico (“America“).

The Jets get antsy while waiting for the Sharks inside Doc’s Drug Store. Riff helps them let out their aggression (“Cool”). The Sharks arrive to discuss weapons to use in the rumble. Tony suggests “a fair fight” (fists only), which the leaders agree to, despite the other members’ protests. Bernardo believes that he will fight Tony, but must settle for fighting Diesel, Riff’s second-in-command, instead. This is followed by a monologue by the ineffective Lt. Schrank trying to find out the location of the rumble. Tony tells Doc about Maria. Doc is worried for them while Tony is convinced that nothing can go wrong; he is in love.

Tony stabs Bernardo in the 1957 Broadway production.

The next day, Maria is in a very happy mood at the bridal shop, as she anticipates seeing Tony again. However, she learns about the upcoming rumble from Anita and is dismayed. When Tony arrives, Maria asks him to stop the fight altogether, which he agrees to do. Before he goes, they dream of their wedding (“One Hand, One Heart”). Tony, Maria, Anita, Bernardo and the Sharks, and Riff and the Jets all anticipate the events to come that night (“Tonight Quintet“). The gangs meet under the highway and, as the fight between Bernardo and Diesel begins, Tony arrives and tries to stop it. Though Bernardo taunts Tony, ridiculing his attempt to make peace and provoking him in every way, Tony keeps his composure. When Bernardo pushes Tony, Riff punches him in Tony’s defense. The two draw their switchblades and get in a fight (“The Rumble”). Tony attempts to intervene, inadvertently leading to Riff being fatally stabbed by Bernardo. Tony kills Bernardo in a fit of rage, which in turn provokes an all-out fight like the fight in the Prologue. The sound of approaching police sirens is heard, and everyone scatters, except Tony, who stands in shock at what he has done. The tomboy, Anybody’s, who stubbornly wishes that she could become a Jet, tells Tony to flee from the scene at the last moment and flees with the knives. Only the bodies of Riff and Bernardo remain.

Act 2

Blissfully unaware of the gangs’ plans for that night, Maria daydreams about seeing Tony with her friends—Rosalia, Consuelo, Teresita and Francisca (“I Feel Pretty”). Later, as Maria dances on the roof happily because she has seen Tony and believes he went to stop the rumble, Chino brings the news that Tony has killed Bernardo. Maria flees to her bedroom, praying that Chino is lying. Tony arrives to see Maria and she initially pounds on his chest with rage, but she still loves him. They plan to run away together. As the walls of Maria’s bedroom disappear, they find themselves in a dreamlike world of peace (“Somewhere“).

Two of the Jets, A-Rab and Baby John, are set on by Officer Krupke, but they manage to escape him. They meet the rest of the gang, now led by Action. To cheer themselves up, they lampoon Officer Krupke, and the other adults who don’t understand them, (“Gee Officer Krupke”). Anybody’s arrives and tells the Jets she has been spying on the Puerto Ricans- she has discovered that Chino is looking for Tony with a gun. The gang separates to find Tony. Action accepts Anybody’s into the Jets, and includes her in the search.

A grieving Anita arrives at Maria’s apartment. As Tony leaves, he tells Maria to meet him at Doc’s so they can run away to the country. In spite of her attempts to conceal it, Anita sees that Tony has been with Maria, and launches an angry tirade against him, (“A Boy Like That“). Maria counters by telling Anita how powerful love is, (“I Have a Love”), though, and Anita realizes that Maria loves Tony as much as she had loved Bernardo. She admits that Chino has a gun and is looking for Tony.

Lt. Schrank arrives to question Maria about her brother’s death, and Anita agrees to go to Doc’s to tell Tony to wait. Unfortunately, the Jets, including Anybody’s, who have found Tony, have congregated at Doc’s, and they taunt Anita with racist slurs and eventually simulate rape. Doc arrives and stops them. Anita is furious, and in anger spitefully delivers the wrong message, telling the Jets that Chino has shot Maria dead.

Doc relates the news to Tony, who has been dreaming of heading to the countryside to have children with Maria. Feeling there is no longer anything to live for, Tony leaves to find Chino, begging for him to shoot him as well. Just as Tony sees Maria alive, Chino arrives and shoots Tony. The Jets, Sharks, and adults flock around the lovers. Maria holds Tony in her arms (and sings a quiet, brief reprise of “Somewhere”) as he dies. Angry at the death of another friend, the Jets move towards the Sharks but Maria takes Chino’s gun and tells everyone that “all of [them]” killed Tony and the others because of their hate for each other, and, “Now I can kill too, because now I have hate!” she yells. However, she is unable to bring herself to fire the gun and drops it, crying in grief. Gradually, all the members of both gangs assemble on either side of Tony’s body, showing that the feud is over. The Jets and Sharks form a procession, and together carry Tony away, with Maria the last one in the procession.

 

Cast

MARIA – GILLIAN GRAY

TONY – KEVIN McGUIRE

ANITA – LINDSEY ROSS

BERNARDE – ANTONY CARTER

RIFF – GRAEME WALLACE

ANYBODYS – ASHLEIGH FRY

ROSALIA – SOPHIE MACNAIR

CONSUELA –  CAROLYN LOWRY

FRANCISCA-  PENNY CARSE

OFFICER KRUPKE – BLAIR CRUIKSHANK

SHRANK – COLIN JOHNSTON

DOC – ALASTAIR McCALL

GLAD HAND – TO BE CONFIRMED

 

JET BOYS

RONAN O’HARA BABY JOHN

ROSS McNALLY ACTION

THOMAS DEVINE SNOWBOY

GRAEME WALLACE RIFF

JAMES LAW DIESEL

NIALL GILLON GEE-TAR

ROBIN CAMERON A-RAB

JET GIRLS

CATHERINE ROSS VELMA

KAREN ARTHURS GRAZIELLA

CAROL McFARLANE

EMMA MAXWELL

KATHRYN MURRAY

MICHELLE McKILLOP

AGNESE FRANCE

JENNY CARTY

SHARK BOYS

JORDAN FINDLAY NIBBLES

RICHARD DALRYMPLE LUIS

CRAIG LEDGERWOOD CHINO

LEO REILLY ANXIOUS

SCOTT McCULLOCH TORO

GRAEME MACKAY PEPE

SHARK GIRLS

CAROLYN LOWRY CONSUELA

PENNY CARSE FRANCISCA

SOPHIE MACNAIR ROSALIA

NICOLA MKANGAMA

LOUISE YAU

KERRY GRAY

ASHLEIGH GUTHRIE

GILLIAN COLQUHOUN

ENSEMBLE

SILVIA CAMPBELL

EMMA LINDSEY

GAYLE McGEACHY

Production photos

WSS002 WSS Tony and Maria WSS Tony WSS Riff WSS Maria 2 WSS Krupke WSS Kevin WSS Girls WSS Girl WSS Doc WSS Colin WSS Bernardo WSS Anybody WSS Anita WSS Anita 2 WSS Maria

Music

Act 1

  • “Prologue” (Instrumental) – Instrumental
  • “Jet Song” – Riff and Jets
  • Something’s Coming” – Tony
  • “The Dance At The Gym” (Instrumental)
    • “Blues”
    • “Promenade”
    • “Mambo”
    • “Cha-cha”
    • “Meeting Scene”
    • “Jump”
  • Maria” – Tony
  • “Balcony Scene” – Maria and Tony
  • America” – Anita, Rosalia and Shark girls
  • Cool” – Ice and Jets
  • One Hand, One Heart” – Tony and Maria
  • Tonight” – Maria, Tony, Anita, Riff, Bernardo
  • “The Rumble” – Instrumental

Act 2

  • I Feel Pretty” – Maria and the Girls
  • “Ballet Sequence” – Tony and Maria
  • “Transition to Scherzo” – Instrumental
  • “Scherzo” – Instrumental
  • Somewhere” (Song and Dance, Company) and “Dream Consuelo” (Tony, Maria, and Company)
  • “Procession and Nightmare” – Jets and Sharks
  • “Gee, Officer Krupke” – Jets
  • A Boy Like That” / “I Have a Love” – Maria and Anita
  • “Taunting Scene” (Instrumental)
  • “Finale” – Maria and Tony

Reviews

With the curtain up, the orchestral Prologue led straight into the Jet Song and the violent brawl between the Jets and the Sharks and these were tasters of what was to come. This dramatic and lengthy opening number set the tone and pace for the show, the fast movement of the rival factions being well choreographed and played by an almost equal number of the opposing gangs and the violence realistically but safely portrayed. The NY Police Department in the forms of Officer Krupke (Blair Cruikshank) and Lieutenant Schrank (Colin Johnston) appeared just in time to break up the fight. Graeme Wallace as Riff and Antony Carter as Bernardo gave excellent performances as the tough and uncompromising Gang Leaders of the Jets and the Sharks respectively, Kevin McGuire taking the impossible role of Tony as the determined but ultimately doomed peacemaker between the Gangs.
Gillian Gray was excellent in the role of Maria (Bernardo’s sister) – with undertones of Carmen and Juliet – handling so well the dramatic highs and delicate lows of Maria’s situation, torn as the character is between two opposing sets of values. Lindsey Ross as Bernardo’s girlfriend gave a fine interpretation of the role as did Craig Ledgerwood as Bernardo’s friend. Alastair McColl played the essential and steady Doc, the owner of the drugstore and meeting place and David Sturgeon took the role of the Social Worker Glad Hand. The Jet Girls and the Shark Girls, too numerous to name in this report completed the cast.
The musical score is, of course, superb with its challenges for the choreographer and the Company’s own dance troupe. It also has some songs that have become classics in their own right such as “I feel Pretty”, “Tonight” and “Somewhere” in addition to the opportunities to “showcase” the orchestra in the Prologue and in the dance sequence at the Gym and the Rumble scene. But the scene with the most highly charged emotion was kept to the last when Tony is shot by Chino and dies in Maria’s arms. The Finale was so well produced and acted that it left the audience emotionally drained to such an extent that play-out music would have been quite inappropriate. The final curtain was enough. The Saturday matinee which I attended was one of the best performances that I have seen of this show. Many of the audience simply filed out quietly and in deep thought – just as they should have done.