By Narelle Wood
There were two things: the fact that The Production Company was responsible; and the recreation of Jerome Robbins’ original choreography by Michael Ralph. It did not disappoint, in fact with this production of West Side Story, The Production Company has set a new bar for itself and for theatre in Melbourne.
The storyline is a mostly faithful reinvention of the Shakespeare classic Romeo and Juliet, set on the streets of New York’s Upper West Side. Two gangs, the Jets and the Sharks are engaged in a turf war, more to do with cultural prejudices and nothing better to do, than an actual place to hang. Of course when Tony (Gareth Keegan), a boy from the Jets, and Maria (Anna O’Byrne), a girl from the Sharks, meet, dance and fall in love, the cultural tensions go from casual street rumblings, to choosing weapons at a war council. And, as per the original, tragedy ensues, but not before some of the most spectacular renditions of some of Broadway’s most iconic songs.
Byrne’s voice is incredible and had the potential to overpower the rest of the cast. However, under the direction of Gale Edwards, it perfectly complimented all the other voices, especially Keegan’s and Deone Zanotto (Anita). Byrne and Keegan seemed to fit so naturally together that I found myself genuinely hoping things would somehow work out; something that I’ve not experienced before in any production of West Side Story or Romeo and Juliet. The whole cast was brilliant, but Zanotto was spectacular in absolutely everything she did.
Sets and costumes were exactly as I expected from The Production Company: simple, effective and impressive. In fact, what made this production so remarkable was how flawlessly everything came together. It was a highlight for me to hear the music to West Side Story played live, at speed and with every nuance. But the star of the show was the choreography. It was truly a privilege to watch how Ralph and the cast were able to recreate the original choreography and make it their own. I would have happily sat and watched them dance every number over and over again.
I don’t think I will ever risk seeing this musical again. The Production Company’s West Side Story is perfection.
Venue: The Arts Centre
Season: Until 19th July
Tickets: Tickets between $21 – $126