Uncle Randy Productions
West Side Story

Date: 6 November, 2003
: Centennial Theatre, North Vancouver

Reviewer: John Jane


When Robert Wise’s movie “West Side Story” was released forty years ago, it was immediately identified as being based on William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. In “West Side Story” Romeo and Juliet are transposed from Italy in the sixteenth century to become Tony and Maria in New York City’s upper west side.

In the tradition of previous Uncle Randy Productions seen at North Vancouver’s cosy little Centennial Theatre, Richard Berg and Roger Hasket take this production on a road slightly less traveled, preferring to place emphasis on the dramatic element rather than faithfully imitating Jerome Robbins’ Broadway production which set new benchmarks in modern choreography and musical theatre.

In the dazzling opening scene, we see a red brick wall as the backdrop divided into two sections, with the Jets occupying the right side of the stage and the Sharks holding ground on the left. An extended dance sequence follows with numerical superiority alternating between the Jets and the Sharks. This establishes the harsh New York inner city atmosphere which prevails throughout the show.

With a talented local cast, ably led by Chris Olson and teenager Stephanie Standerwick, the audience follows the story of two lovers challenging bigotry and circumstances beyond their control.





Where this young cast really excels is assimilating the tensions of turf war through interpretive movement and strong vocal delivery. In particular, Sophie Olson is solid as the fiery Anita, who, with the female members of the Sharks, shine in the kinetic ‘America’ dance sequence.

Other individual standout performances were from Brent Clark with a terrific over-the-top performance as the highly-strung Action and Maddy Campbell as the mischievous Anybodies. The incidental placement of supporting cast members in the soliloquy scenes also worked well here.

Jesse White’s costume design might have benefitted from a little more vision, particularly with Tony Bordignon’s (Krupke) uniform. However, this is only a minor distraction.

In the final poignant scene we see Maria bent over her Tony, with the warring gangs again confronting each other in unresolved conflict.

This production is modest compared to last years extravagant Arts Club Theatre presentation, but nonetheless entertaining. Anyone attending this show expecting only an amateur performance, may be pleasantly surprised.

.© 2003, John Jane