West Side Story

West Side Story
Leonard Bernstein (music) and Stephen Sondheim (lyrics). Based on a conception by Jerome Robbins, book by Arthur Laurents. Victorian College of the Arts (graduating students). Space 28, VCA Performing Arts Building. Director: Martin Croft. Musical Director: Stephen Gray. Choreographer: Kelly Aykers. Set Design: David Samuel. Lighting Design: Danny Pettingill. September 8 – 18, 2011.

Attempting Bernstein and Sondheim’s iconic West Side Story is no mean feat, not least because of the intense emotional energy interspersed with gentle pathos, and the demands of musical and dance material.

Victorian College of the Arts’ graduating music theatre students come up trumps in a production marking the culmination of three years of intensive study for cast members.

Highlights, and they were high, included the infectious energy of America, the uplifting ensemble singing in Tonight, the comic choreographical brilliance in Officer Krupke, and the duets I Have A Love and One Hand One Heart.

Stars-in-waiting Katherine Shoobridge (Maria), Phoebe Panaretos (Anita), Joshua Robson (Tony), and Connor Crawford (Riff) impressed with their complimentary strengths, and had the audience spellbound with some disarming singing and emotion charged drama.

Under the direction of Stephen Gray a 20-piece orchestra, drawn from current students and alumni from VCA’s Contemporary Music and the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, managed the relentless ferocity of the material in the main, with just a few moments of misaligned rhythmic work. BothMaria and One Hand One Heart call for a slightly more relaxed tempo for mine.

Simple lighting states and a minimal set design were effectively utilised, and the dance was well done and contained all one expects in this show.

Rest assured, Melbourne’s music theatre future is in good hands.

Lucy Graham

Our earlier coverage - link

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