December 3, 2006, by Peter Kirwan
West Side Story (Stratford Operatic Society) @ The Courtyard Theatre
I haven’t had anything to update for a while- after the manic patches of the Autumn, there are far fewer plays on at the moment! Next week I’m seeing The Winter’s Tale and Pericles, and after that it’s Merry Wives: The Musical. I did, however, make one trip to Stratford this week, to see the final play of the ‘Fringe’ Festival- West Side Story, being put on by Stratford-upon-Avon Operatic Society.
It’s the first non Complete-Works play to be put on at the Courtyard, and the theatre really lent itself to the musical. The fight scenes in particular were very physical and well choreographed, and the dance numbers worked well on the thrust stage.
Several members of Music Theatre Warwick (some of whom I actually performed in a play with last year) had been recruited to supplement the society, and Owain Llyr Williams stood out as an excellent Tony. Other performances were also good, Anita and Riff in particular. The big set-pieces were also very good- the best bit being an amazing ‘Gee Officer Krupke’, choreographed to perfection, which brought the house down.
Weaker moments included the truly terrible attempts at American accents and a comically unstable dressmaker’s dummy! Also disappointing was Maria- she had a lovely voice but far more suited to a choir than a musical. Singing solo she sounded great, but was instantly drowned out when singing with anybody else.
This was very clearly an amateur production, but an enormously successful one and far better than the last professional ‘West Side Story’ I saw! The Fringe Festival has been dedicated to plays that touch on Shakespearean themes, and West Side Story is an obvious production to include. The fact that the RSC gave over The Courtyard for it is an interesting one, which says much about the good relations between the society and the company, and also about the relevance of the play to the Complete Works Festival. Very nice to see something a bit different, and a very enjoyable evening!