THE Theatre Royal in Windsor was packed out with an appreciative audience and some proud parents, rightly so, for this amateur production of the Broadway classic and contemporary retelling of Romeo and Juliet that is West Side Story.
The collaboration between Arthur Laurents, Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim and Jerome Robbins was embraced enthusiastically by this community theatre show, featuring a cast of children, young adults and a sprinkling of veterans.
A madcap clash of teens and a riot of fun ensued, then its heartfelt tragic denoument unfolded as they brought us a very believable interpretation with a great pace.
This show managed to pull off the challenge of recreating the cultural tensions of Fifties New York on stage in the Home Counties.
As the two teenage street gangs — the native New Yorker Jets and the Puerto Rican Sharks — the boys and girls showed off some great teamwork and lovely individual turns, with impeccable timing, dramatic conflicts and good character studies.
The whole show was given a Latino/Manhattan flavour and we truly felt immersed in the experience. By far the most outstanding voice had to be Maria, played by Alyssia Kershaw, ably supported by her beau, Tony (Scott Robinson).
I found myself anticipating the wonderful, well-known numbers Tonight, America, I Feel Pretty and Somewhere and they were brought out beautifully — so much so that I googled some of the songs for a repeat listen after the show.
There was solid back-up from all the singers and lots of excellent street banter and jibes.
While there were a few tiny crinkles around the edges, the New York and Puerto Rican accents were pretty solid and any opening-night jitters were smoothed over instantly. Flamboyant costumes flattered the nicely spaced choreography and the gangland-graffitied Manhattan scenery was evocative.
My guest particularly enjoyed the cop homage in the tune Gee, Officer Krupke and the all-singing, all-dancing girls’ tableau chorus of America.
The melodies were marvellous and this couldn’t have been achieved without the meticulous and flawless playing of the band.
Special mention must also be given to the youngest members of the cast, each of whom held their own on the big stage. Bravo!
Review by Natalie Aldred