Reviewer Alice Wright wowed by the Jets and the Sharks

REVIEW: West Side Story, Queen Elizabeth’s School, by Alice Wright, Express & Echo

I am probably the only person in the world that hasn’t seen the film West side story, right? Well I say that, I have tried to watch it a couple of times and never really managed to get past the first half an hour for one reason or another. I have to admit it has never really grabbed me by the proverbial long enough to keep watching, however that all changed last week when I went to watch Queens Elizabeth’s staged version of the classic. Not really knowing what to expect I took a willing friend and her 2 daughters, who are massive fans of the modern day film version of West Side Story, Teen Beach.

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Before the show started we got the chance to admire the set which was impressive for such a small space, even before anyone stepped foot onto it, it immediately created an atmosphere of 50’s America in a rough part of town. The show began with a dance scene from the cast which captivated the audience, especially my friend’s two daughters who we had to ask to sit down as they were getting so involved. As I watched I realised that this show was made for the stage, sod the film, I was hooked, fabulous costumes and authentic performances from young people in their element – what’s not to like!

As the acts went on they were supported by a fabulous live band sat to the left of the stage, again all QE students, really bringing every scene to life. The story unfolded and I found that although I was pretty much a West Side virgin, I recognised many of the songs, I Feel Pretty, I like to be in America and Tonight were amongst the ones I had a little sing along to. The effort these students had put into everything from the choreography to the accents was immense, and it paid off. Tony’s handsome charm, Marias angelic cheekiness, Riff and Bernardo’s toughness, all came through brilliantly! But the star of the night for me was the performance from Anita played by Jessica Anez, if she isn’t actually Puerto Rican I will eat my hat! Her voice, dancing and character play was so convincing it would rival most professionals, but with that said the thing that impressed me the most about the whole performance is how every single person stayed in character 100% of the time, even the chorus – I was looking round at every cast member and they were truly putting their heart and soul into it, and that’s what made it truly magical.

The other person who really stood out to me and also had a great New York accent was the girl who played the ‘tomboy wanna be jet’ – a star in the making in my humble opinion!

It’s funny from the moment Tony and Maria sang tonight I realised the connection with Romeo and Juliet, however although I had probably watched the film up to this point, this connection had never come through. Tradgedy, Violence, Love, Romance, Music, Dancing and a little bit Risque, it’s a show that has everything and QE you did it proud – can’t wait till next years, but this will be a hard one to beat!

Alice Wright – Express & Echo

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