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REVIEW: West Side Story at Newcastle Tyne Theatre

 A Great Celebration

West Side Story

Newcastle Tyne Theatre & Opera House

Wednesday 20th – Saturday 23rd September 2017

Book: Arthur Laurents
Music: Leonard Bernstein
Lyrics: Stephen Sondenheim

This show closes on the 23rd September - exactly 150years to the day since the theatre opened. The Tyne Theatre and Opera House has an interesting history throughout its 150 years - however its most recent events are interesting in themselves. The charity that owns the building has now run the theatre since 2015. Slowly they are ploughing back the monies made in shows like West Side Story into restoring the grade 1 listed building.  There are no council grants or arts funding for this venue and hence progress with the restoration takes place at the pace that the funds allow. Hence attending this week’s production is not just an evenings entertainment, it is helping to secure the future of our region’s cultural heritage.

So what of the show? Regular readers will be already aware that we are fans of West Side Story. The show moves Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet to the new world. It is 1950s New York and two rival gangs are trying to establish their dominance in their neighbourhood. Add in the racial tensions that one gang, the Sharks, is made up of Puerto Rican immigrants whilst the other, the Jets, is made up of established white American lads. Naturally problems occur when former gang member Tony (David Nagaj) falls in love with Maria (Skye Costelloe), sister of the sharks leader Bernardo (Daniel Johnson). This doesn’t stop the leader of the Jets, Riff (David Parker) from setting up a fight with Bernardo’s gang. The gang leaders then meet at Doc’s place and arrange the terms of the battle.

This production is large scale. The huge ensemble fills the stage during some of the dance sequences. The orchestra is so large that a number of rows of seating had to be removed from the stalls. It has clearly been a massive undertaking to pull it all together. Credit, therefore, goes to the creative team for pulling it off. The direction and choreography from Bobby Trotter and Simon Pinkney has created a very pleasant evening’s entertainment. The dancing was vibrant, bold and well timed.

Considering this was opening night there were no obvious nerves or hitches. The cast captivated the spirit of the show well and gave a passionate performance.

The five principals came across as leaders of the pack which is important in order to pull this show off. Also coming under the spotlight were great input from James Reay as Chino, Ollie Cook as Action, Martin Collins as Doc and William Kerr as Pepe. This is an ensemble piece and each of the 40+ on stage gave an entertaining performance.

The orchestra, under conductor Joe Diggle filled the theatre with sound just as it was designed to. We had some great vocals during the show. In particular, Sky Costelloe, as Maria, had a stunningly powerful yet haunting quality to her voice. Her duets with both David Nagaj, such as Tonight, and with Lucy Sutton, who played Anita, on A Boy Like That was a delight to hear. This show is full of great tunes including Maria, I Feel Pretty and of course America.

This production ticked the boxes: great costumes, big numbers and dance moves from a fabulous cast plus a strong story. West Side Story is a great way to mark the 150th anniversary - here’s to the next 150 years!

Review by Stephen Oliver

£16 full price, £14 concessions, £10 limited view. Groups 10+ get 1 free

Tickets available now from: Eventim Tickets LINK
The Tyne Theatre & Opera House Box Office is open 10am-3:30pm Monday to Friday and event days
Booking and Information Line: 0844 2491 000 (10am – 6pm Monday to Friday)

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