WEST SIDE STORY. 4****, Birmingham

West Side Story
Stage Experience
The New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham
7.30 23rd to 26th August 2017
Four Stars ****

Review: Paul & David Gray

A Young Cast, Mature Beyond its Years
Established in 2003 with the aim of providing an opportunity for young people to perform as part of a large cast in a professional scale musical production, Stage Experience fills the stage of the Alexandra Theatre with a vibrant and energetic cast of 103 for its 2017 staging of West Side Story.

This is a large number of people for a stage to hold. Sometimes the production does look overcrowded. At other times the size of the expanded chorus really works. The dance hall scene has a bustle that seems authentic and abounds with energy and danger. The full cast produce a satisfying wall of sound during Tonight that lends this number power and immediacy.

At no time does the size of the cast threaten to overshadow the central performances. The principles are, without exception, excellent; acting and singing with a power and maturity that belies their ages. This is an Everest of a musical and these young performers really rise to the challenge, taking the soaring vocal lines in their stride and digging deep to connect with the passion and pain at the heart of the story.

The two leads are a perfect pairing, their beautiful, strong voices blend exquisitely and their chemistry is totally convincing. Elliot Gooch as Tony acts with sensitivity and sings with an intelligent and telling use of vocal colour. Superb. Grace Whyte, as Maria delivers the final scene with devastating emotional force. There is similar great chemistry between Leah Vassell, a gutsy, full bodied Anita, and Javier Aquilera as Bernardo, a charismatic performer with an ability to command the stage.

The choreography throughout was nicely managed, not overstretching the younger performers but giving those with more experience a chance to shine, with plenty of flips and tricks to bring relevance and currency. America sizzled with heat, sex and fun, while the big number for the Jets, Cool, was, well, cool; with a slick, jazzy and polished central performance from Jordan Rickets as Riff.

Overall this production is an achievement of which all involved should be immensely proud.

Jordan Ricketts Riff
Elliot Gooch Tony
Caven Rimmer Action
Liam Huband A-Rab
Thom Lambert Baby John
Charlie Howell Snowboy
Ben Tanner Diesel/Big Deal
Javier Aguilera Bernardo
Grace Whyte Maria
Leah Vassell Anita
Christopher Rutter Chino
Gibsa Bah Indio
Sam Rogers Luis
Isabella Kibble Graziella
Olivia Wicks Velma
Kaitlyn Hill Minne
Jasmine Bailey Anybodys
Kathryn Irwin Rosalia
Melissa Huband Consuela
Molly Bache Teresita
Jessica Williams Estella
Alexandra Brookes Margarita
Jonah Sercombe Doc
Todd Dougan Krupke
Alfie Mitcham Glad Hand
Christopher Dover Shrank
Chris Newton Musical Director
Pollyann Tanner Director & Choreographer

2017-08-28 14:13:55

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