Royal City Musical Theatre: West Side Story based on a conception of Jerome Robbins

Dates and Venue 12 – 26 April 2008 @ 8 pm and Saturday matinees @ 2pm | The Massey Theatre, 735 Eighth Avenue, New Westminster

Book Arthur Laurents Music Leonard Bernstein Lyrics Stephen Sondheim Director Lloyd Nicholson Musical Director James Bryson Technical Director Roger Lantz Costume Design Chris Sinosich Sound Design Tim Lang Lighting Design Philip Guhl Choreography Valerie Easton

Reviewer Ed Farolan

Jessie and Ovation awardee Lloyd Nicholson delivers a superlative and sensitive rendition of this widely-acclaimed melodramatic musical, a remake of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, starring the beautiful and talented singer Kazumi Evans (Maria), Ovation Award nominee Mat Baker (Tony), and the earthy, charismatic and energetic dancer/singer Robyn Wong (Anita).

The other players, Dan Szohner (Riff) played his "all-American boy" part well; his hairdo reminded me of the young Ronald Reagan; Jeremy Lowe (Bernardo) delivered his part to the T as the short-tempered Puerto Rican brother of Maria . All the cast members were excellent. I could see from their performance the outcome of all the time spent rehearsing --singing, especially dancing, thus, a special kudos to Valerie Easton for the effort put into the excellent choreography. The story goes that during the entire shooting of the film, 200 pairs of shoes were worn out, 100 pounds of make-up were applied, and 27 pairs of pants were split. From watching the show, this might happen too by the end this show's run!

I was truly impressed by the high quality of this performance: highly inventive, highly stylized, and highly exhilarating. The energy, the vigorous athletic moves, the running jumps amazed not only me but an enthusiastic audience that whistled and cheered after each song and dance during this opening night show.

The dance at the gym in Act I by the Jets and the Sharks was captured visually by Costume Designer Chris Sinosich portraying contrasting colours: light-coloured 1950s party clothes of the Jets' couples against the Sharks' darker colours. The lighting effects were also nicely done, especially the slow-motion, fantasy-like scene when Tony and Maria meet and fall in love. The ever-popular "Tonight" and "Maria", songs sung by practically all the singing sensations from Pavarotti to Frank Sinatra, were exquisitely delivered by the soprano voice of Kazumi Evans and Mat Baker's tenor reach.

The expressionistic set was well-symbolized. Reminiscent of the set in the film Dr. Caligari, the twisted balcony and the warped, run-down buildings reflected the theme of discrimination and racial strife which is a never-ending human problem as it was then and as it is still today. There was just a minor glitch in the opening scene during opening night when the backdrop curtain didn't close properly. But other than that, the set changes ran smoothly. I also thought that the use of the scrim was quite effective.

Musical Director James Bryson who has been with RCMT for 19 years effectively conducted the orchestra which, I understand, has to be assembled anew each time a musical is produced by this company. Kudos for the effort! One little thing: could you tell one of the instrumentalists (to your left) to sit down? I felt annoyed that his head was sticking out like a sore thumb.

This was indeed an entertaining and well-produced show. We've reviewed shows produced by RCMT for more than 10 years, and all our reviews have been mostly positive. Congratulations again to the cast and crew for a job well done!

© 2008 Ed Farolan