WEST SIDE STORY – Zest Theatre Group

WEST SIDE STORY – Zest Theatre Group

Reviewed by Allison Thomas

January 2017

I have never seen West Side Story – show or movie, so from the great opening dance sequence, the ups and downs, fun and laughs of the opposing gangs, to the sad ending, this musical show was very entertaining.
It was a family production. Terry Mountstephen ably produced and directed and her daughter, Peta Bowey directed, co-ordinated costumes and created the posters and program. (I appreciated the easy-to-read print of the program!) The colours of her costumes, especially the red and blue clothing, armbands and ribbons differentiated the Sharks and Jets very competently.
Graeme Mountstephen’s simple and functional set design ingeniously used two intimate curtained areas on both sides at front of stage, which was often the primary focus of intense action. The main stage was used mostly for big groups and dancing, which was excellent due to Sally Grooby’s superb choreography and the zesty, energetic, well-practiced dancers. No mean feat considering that often nearly the whole cast of about 20 dancers was often on the stage at the same time!
The only distraction was the loud background music which often drowned out vocals – both singing and spoken . Often this was because actors and singers were facing sideways, or at the back of the stage and not projecting their voices enough. The audience enjoyed the classic songs “Maria”, “Tonight”, “America” and “I Feel Pretty”, often cheering and clapping their favourites.
Ashley Penny was perfect as Maria. Scott Murton as Tony could have put more volume into some of his songs. Isobel Pitt’s Anita words were also often not clear at times. I’m sure this will improve with each performance. Byron Godwin-Knott as Riff and Jo Kelly as Bernardo were believable opponents. The whole cast put energy and enthusiasm into their acting singing and dancing, maintaining their accents admirably.
I highly recommend making a trip to Victor Harbour to enjoy ’s West Side Story.
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