West Side Story is brought gloriously to life on stage at Birmingham Hippodrome this week. Matt Hawksworth, the Director and Choreographer describes the piece as ‘one of the mightiest collaborations’ - but that seems to not only apply to the plethora of talent involved in originally conceiving this show; it also applies to the dynamic, multi-talented team behind this particular production.
Following 1,000 auditions, 40 incredibly talented individuals were selected to be a part of this epic production (plus 4 adults!) and they filled the stage with vibrancy, energy and sheer enthusiasm from start to finish.
There were moments where you could hear a pin drop and then there were moments of rapturous, unceasing applause for the talent witnessed on stage, by this incredibly supportive audience. The local theatre scene was out in force and it was a pleasure to be a part of it.
It’s hard with a show like this to single out certain performers as they each brought great skill to their roles, however particularly excellent performances came from Luke Rossiter as Baby John and Gibsa Bah as Bernardo, alongside Bethan Day as Betty, whose vocals wonderfully captured the beauty of ‘Somewhere’.
Matthew Pandya’s buttery vocals as Riff were an absolute delight, he excelled in the role and it’s hard to believe that he has just finished college; he is a serious talent. Leading the way and bringing the whole show together was Alex Cook as Tony and Kamilla Fernandes as Maria. They were a force to be reckoned with, both delivering fantastic vocal performances and capturing the heart-warming and heart-breaking moments with sensitivity and maturity beyond their years.
Admittedly, there were times when the stage felt overfilled and there were a couple of moments where dialogue was inaudible over the band, but these are small gripes for what was an incredibly polished production from a set of exceptionally talented individuals (both on and off the stage).
With a stripped back, cleverly designed set from Al Parkinson complemented by David Howe’s brilliant lighting design, the show was brought together by the rest of the creative team. From costume design (Rachel Baynton) to energetic choreography from Matt Hawsworth (also Director) and Ruth Seager and musical direction from Paul Murphy, this Bernstein, Laurents, Sondheim and Robbins show has been done more than justice right here, in the heart of the Midlands.
It is safe to say that there is a melting pot of young talent in the middle of the UK and to see a glimpse of just 40 of these performers last night was a real treat.
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