petzipellepingo (petzipellepingo) wrote in westsidestory,

Review: West Side Story at The Hammond School
As thought-provoking as when it first opened

by JoHenwood

A good teacher will always challenge pupils so when staff at the Hammond set Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story as the musical this year, they must have known the bar had been set high.

These professional musical theatre and drama students are used to taking on West End big hitters, including Les Misérables and Phantom of the Opera , to critical acclaim, but with Bernstein's score, Shakespeare's plot and Jerome Robbins' choreography to live up to, it must make even the real professionals quake.

The first challenge is to open with the energetic Jets song and the boys, led by Matthew Neuenhaus as Riff, did a good enough job but by the time they had danced at the gym and challenged a few Puerto Ricans, they were really 'Cool' just when they needed to be.

Dance is the Hammond School's speciality and they didn't let us down. The Dance at the Gym with the Mambo and the Cha-Cha had all the sexual energy that you would expect from a group of young teenagers and I wonder if the same was evident at all the Year 11 proms that have been taking place this week in Chester.

Star-crossed lovers Alex Hunt and Megan Hollie-Robertson as Tony and Maria sang beautifully, especially together, and their balcony scene in the tenements of New York took me right back to fair Verona.

Nicole Finneran had a maturity beyond her years in the role of Anita and I could have watched her America duet with Kirsty Warren as Rosalia again and again. With immigration topping the political news feeds these days, this song sums up just why people migrate to other countiries. For a better life, even if the dream never comes true.

The Sharks are always my favourite and Jordan Li-Smith, although diminutive in stature, commanded the respect of his gang before being 'taken out' by Tony in a revenge attack for the death of his best friend Riff.

This West Side Story is not an easy tale to tell - with its street gangs, violence, rape and racism - and the students made it as thought-provoking as it was when it first opened.

There are a few light moments however and Matthew Johnson was an hilarious Glad Hand, trying to control the tension at the dance. Jack Hales was a delightful Baby John and Jessica Byrd, a lovely Anybody's.

 photo 152014wsschester3_zps4f73b7f2.jpg

 photo 152014wsschester1_zpsaa72abbc.jpg

 photo 152014wsschester4_zpsd5eda070.jpg

 photo 152014wsschester5_zps3b8b63fc.jpg

 photo 152014wsschester6_zps48e40c64.jpg

 photo 152014wsschester8_zpsc0a03eb2.jpg

 photo 152014wsschester9_zps3f520cb1.jpg

 photo 152014wsschester2_zpsc096832b.jpg

 photo 152014wsschester10_zps6242f314.jpg

 photo 152014wsschester7_zps2714cdd1.jpg
Tags: productions

  • (no subject)

    ‘In the Heights’ is an award-winning hit. Its predecessor, ‘West Side Story,’ shocked audiences. By Marisa Iati Excitement greeted “In the…

  • Musical Monday

  • Musical Monday

  • Post a new comment


    Comments allowed for members only

    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened