West Side story is still inspirational

West Side Story, Suffolk Young People's Theatre, Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds.AS it approaches its 50th Anniversary West Side Story can still inspire people to whistle the score as they leave the theatre.

West Side Story, Suffolk Young People's Theatre, Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds.

AS it approaches its 50th Anniversary West Side Story can still inspire people to whistle the score as they leave the theatre.

It is even more remarkable that the Suffolk Young People's Theatre can produce a performance, which does justice to Leonard Bernstein's music and Stephen Sondheim's lyrics after just ten days of rehearsals.

The decision to celebrate the group's 25th Anniversary with a return to this classic and tragic tale of love and division was justified by a packed house.


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Producing this timeless musical on so small a stage, with its flamboyant dance sequences and large fight scenes, not only required excellent choreography but also innovative set design.

Commanding lead performances from Jonathon Lodge as Tony and Lisa Bowman as Maria breathed genuine life into the central love story. Both combined strong singing voices with excellent control and, in the case of Maria, an authentic Puerto Rican accent.

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Chemistry is all-important in any love story and the portrayal of Tony and Maria's doomed relationship was expertly carried off.

Among the show's famous numbers two stood out as exceptional.

The Latino exuberance of "America" sung by the Shark's girls not only sounded good but also worked well visually, aided by excellent choreography and marvellous costumes. This was equalled by a delightfully mischievous and cynical rendition of "Gee, Officer Krupke" by the members of the Jets.

The dance sequences were performed with great energy helping to add to the dramatic tension between the rival gangs. Despite occasional delays in reorganising sets between scenes, the pace of the story was well-maintained.

The future of West Side Story continues to look safe. Its themes of racial tension and love are still as pertinent today as they were 400 years ago when Shakespeare first penned Romeo and Juliet. In addition, on the strength of this performance, the Suffolk Young People's Theatre also looks set to continue entertaining audiences in the region while simultaneously providing a taste of the stage for many youngsters.

West Side Story by the Suffolk Young People's Theatre runs until Saturday August 2 2003. Tickets available from Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds.  Box Office (01284) 769505.

Stewart Charman

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