Tag Archives: Leonard Bernstein

REVIEW: On the Town – Eastwood Park Theatre

Leonard Bernstein, Betty Comden and Adolph Green’s 1944 musical On The Town, is one of the great New York musicals and arguably, one of the great American musical theatre classics. This mating dance of a musical follows three sailor buddies: wide-eyed farm boy Gabey (Andi Denny), nerdy Chip (Ross McNally) and ladies man Ozzie (Kris Morrison) on 24 hours of shore leave during World War II. When Gabey spies an advert for Miss Turnstiles on the subway, the trio set out to find his dream girl. As they chase around the city, the pals are inevitably side-tracked by a cast of kooky characters.

While remembered today for its glorious score, the show was expanded from the great Jerome Robbins’ ballet Fancy Free, and remains dance-heavy, that, coupled with the sound of Bernstein’s jazzy, brassy, bluesy symphonic score (usually played by an orchestra of 28), would seem to be impossible for an amateur company to recreate, and it’s a truly brave company that tackles a Titan of a project like this, but boy do Glasgow Music Theatre succeed.

Indelibly marked in our memories are the performances from the 1949 film version, in particular Gene Kelly’s Gabey and Frank Sinatra’s Chip, and you would think that unfair comparisons would be made, but the three male leads are a joy from the first notes ringing out in New York, New York to the sunrise at the end of their eventful day. The quality of the singing, the crispness of the diction and the sheer talent of these actors, would put many professional touring productions to shame. The women are an absolute delight too: the show-stopping voice of Christina Leon as man-eater Hildy and Julie Henery’s brilliantly judged ditzy turn as anthropologist Claire de Loon, particularly make their mark, as do the supporting performances of Lindsey Ross as the tipsy Miss Dilly and Kelly Johnston as Hildy’s sneezy roommate Lucy. Vocally, Denny’s Lonely Town and Morrison, Leon, McNally and Henery’s Some Other Time are simply beautiful.

Mention must also be made of the eight-piece orchestra briskly lead by Erik Igelström, who do a fine, full-blooded job, recreating the sound of the 1940s.

Any faults lie with the piece itself rather than the company: it has always been a little disjointed – playing like a musical revue rather than an out-and-out musical, but this is a minor quibble in an outstanding production from this innovative company. It’s old-fashioned, corny but charming and as frothy as a bath full of bubbles, but it’s none the worse for that. You’d be hard-pressed to find finer performances on the professional stage – catch it while you can.

At Eastwood Park Theatre until Saturday 4 February 2017

REVIEW: West Side Story – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

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This post originally written for and published by The Public Reviews at: http://www.thepublicreviews.com/west-side-story-kings-theatre-glasgow/

Book: Arthur Laurents

Music: Leonard Bernstein

Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim

Director/Choreographer: Joey McKneely

Reviewer: Lauren Humphreys

The Public Reviews Rating: ★★★★★

The glorious finished product that West Side Story became is extraordinary considering how fraught the relationship between the show’s tyrannical director Jerome Robbins (whose choreography is re-produced on this tour by his former assistant Joey McKneely) and the creative team of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim. Shocking audiences and changing the history of musical theatre on its debut in 1957, this ground-breaking musical is a re-telling of Romeo and Juliet, our Montagues and Capulets this time two gangs; the Polish-American Jets and the Puerto Rican Sharks. Re-set on the mean streets of 1950′s New York, it tells a tale of gang violence, rape and rampant racism.

When looking at the show from a distance of sixty years there has to be an acceptance that in this age of daily exposure to violence and tragedy some of its impact and shock value has been lost but what hasn’t eroded is the emotional impact that the piece has on its audience.

The staging is simplistic, nothing more than a few spindly fire-escapes, some balconies and black and white projected backdrops of New York and Arthur Laurents book, though light on dialogue is effective, but this really is a show whose magic lies in its music and choreography to drive the story and ramp up the tension. With a score that includes the now classic songs, ‘Maria’, ‘Tonight’, ‘Somewhere’ and ‘I Feel Pretty’ and the show-stopping set pieces ‘America’ and ‘Gee, Officer Krupke’ executed with impressive precision by the hugely talented ensemble, it’s impossible not to be won over. The only jarring note is the overly sentimental dream ballet sequence during the emotive ‘Somewhere’, mawkish in its day it is just too syrupy for a modern day audience.

The cast are universally deserving of praise, in particular Louis Maskell as Tony, a star in the making with an evocative voice, rich in tone and emotion and an appealing stage presence. In support Djalenga Scott is a fire-cracker Anita, Javier Cid, an elegant and imposing Bernardo and Jack Wilcox a power-house Riff. Katie Hall in the pivotal role of Maria, captures the accent well, managing to maintain it whilst singing, but she’s physically unconvincing as the young Puerto Rican immigrant Maria and whilst her clear soprano is impressive (as it was as Christine in the recent Phantom of the Opera tour) her acting skills leave a lot to be desired. That said, any minor quibbles, and there are few, are easy to forgive in the face of such talent and quality.

Deserving of its status as an all-time great, this beautifully executed production with its pitch-perfect cast is simply unmissable.

Runs until Saturday 25th January 2014

Image courtesy http://www.westsidestorytheshow