The culmination of three years of sweat, blood and tears, the Victorian College of the Arts Bachelor of Arts (Music Theatre) graduating class of 2011 brought the house down and the audience to their feet during their final performance of Stephen Sondheim’s West Side Story.
The beloved tale of star-crossed lovers debuted on Broadway in 1957 and has been a piece of musical theatre history ever since. Best known for the 1961 musical film of the same name starring Natalie Wood, West Side Story is performed across the globe to appreciative audiences.
Adapted from Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, the ultimate tragic love story is re-located to 1950’s Manhattan where rival gangs ‘The Jets’ and Puerto Rican ‘Sharks’ engage in turf war for their patch of New York City.
Things take a turn for the worse when Tony (a Jet) falls for Maria, the leader of the Sharks little sister.
Performing West Side Story is the musical theatre equivalent of Romeo & Juliet. This is no small amount of pressure to place upon the rising stars of the stage, and I am pleased to report that they pulled it off with aplomb.
In a very traditional performance, director Martin Croft played it safe and with great respect. I was however disappointed to see nothing new brought to the production when there was so much talent on stage, and so much scope for experimentation.
The choreography was beautiful designed and expertly executed by the cast. This graduating class is surely the definition of ‘triple threat’.
Connor Crawford as leader of the Jets Riff, was the perfect combination of good boy looks meet bad boy persona which made him utterly endearing.
Katherine Shoobridge was perfectly cast as Maria – her innocence and naivety brought a heartbreaking integrity to the role that was sometimes too much to bear. Shoobridge’s final scene showed off the young actress’s wonderful ability and was the most powerful in the production. A truly honest performer, Shoobridge dared to bare her soul in an incredibly moving performance.
A solid cast, West Side Story was once again brought to life, and the boys from The Jets were the ones to bring it. Their performances would rival that of any professional, in particular their rendition of “Gee Officer Krupke” (incidentally a song I’ve never cared for) was a wonderful respite from the drama unfolding around them.
The story is classic, the score epic, the choreography was spot on and the cast was made up of the brightest new stars of Melbourne theatre. With these talented performers we have a lot to look forward to in the future of the Australian Stage.
Victorian College of the Arts presents
West Side Story
Director Martin Croft
Venue: Space 28, 28 Dodds St Southbank
Dates: September 8 – 18, 2011
Tickets: $27 full / $25