West Side Story – 2015, Beal Musical Theatre

Heart Wrenching Performance

There is that moment in West Side Story where you have a brief glimmer of hope that everything is going to be alright. Tony is calling for Chino to shoot him, when suddenly Maria shows up and Tony runs into her arms, so happy to see her alive after being told she is dead.  But then the fatal shot rings out: Chino kills Tony.

I have seen many performances of West Side Story, and I’m always hoping everything will be sorted out in time. But sadly, it never is, and the audience falls into a stunned silence.

The students of Beal Secondary School’s Musical Theatre Program have proven themselves worthy, giving a remarkable presentation of West Side Story.  Once again, I was drawn in, believing that Tony and Maria’s love will conquer all, and somehow there can be a happy ending.  And in a split second all hope is lost and the audience feels drained.WSS Beal

West Side Story was first produced on Broadway in 1957, at a time when musicals had cheery show tunes and happy endings – The Music Man beat out West Side Story for the Tony award in 1958.  However, West Side Story has endured with its ground breaking style, innovative choreography and tragic tale.  Based on Romeo and Juliet, it’s the story of two teenage gangs, the Jets who are the “Americans” and the Sharks who are Puerto Rican immigrants.

Credit goes to Director and Teacher Megan Moorhouse for giving her young students the empathy to attack this musical.  Without a full understanding of this tragedy, they wouldn’t be able to give such a heart wrenching performance.

The entire cast is excellent – acting, singing and dancing is faultless throughout – and those in the lead roles are outstanding.  Emma Ratcliffe as Maria has a soaring soprano voice and Jack Pheonix as Tony has a beautiful tenor voice; together they sound wonderful.  Isabella Wolder is perfect as the sassy Anita and Henry Firmston is excellent as Riff, especially in the dance numbers.

A shout out to the adults in the production: well done.  In particular, Art Fidler’s cop is great.  He has channelled Inspector Luger from the old Barney Miller TV series, creating the perfect Schrank.

The students also do justice to the wonderful music in West Side Story: favourite songs such as Maria, America, Tonight, I Feel Pretty and Somewhere are presented to perfection.

To the all the students involved, whether on stage or off, congratulations on a great show.  I look forward to following your careers in the future.

Tickets are available through the Grand box office at 672-8800 or 1-800-265-1593 or visit www.grandtheatre.com.

West Side Story
Music by Leonard Bernstein
Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by Arthur Laurents
Directed by M. Moorhouse
Choreography by J. Dawson
Musical Direction by D. Weaver
Performed by Beal Musical Theatre Students
Produced by M. Moorhouse, J. Dawson
H.B. Beal Secondary School, London
May 6-9, 2015
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

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