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West Side Story - Chatswood Musical Society

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by GiGi GMV (subscribe)
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The World's Greatest Love Story and Musical - In One
Last Friday night I attended the opening night of Chatswood Musical Society's "West Side Story" at Zenith Theatre in Chatswood.

Image appears courtesy of Scott Clare

For those who are new to the show, "West Side Story" is a modernised spin off of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. It was written by Leonard Bernstein in 1950 and it has entertained audiences around the world for the past 50 years.

Image appears courtesy of Scott Clare

The story centres around two rival gangs on the streets of Upper West Side neighbourhood in New York City; the established American (the 'Jets') and the immigrant Puerto Rican counterparts (the 'Sharks'), as they battle for control of neighbourhood turf.

Modern day star-crossed lovers / Image appears courtesy of Scott Clare

Two young, idealistic star-crossed lovers, Maria (played by Michaela Leisk) and Tony (played Anthony Levin) meet and fall in love at a school dance and find themselves caught between the rivalry of the street gangs.

West Side Story is a heart-wrenching love story depicting the young lovers' struggle to survive in a world of hate, violence and prejudice.

Highlights of the Show:

This musical production was packed with many talents. The characters displayed their raw conflicting emotion through various dance moves. The clear voice of Michaela Leisk was truly unforgettable.

Anita's energetic dance move in a vibrant red dress / Image appears courtesy of Scott Clare

Anita (played by Susana Downes), the feisty but soft-hearted Latina girlfriend of Bernardo, really stole the show for me. Anita's personality was decisively stronger compared to Maria and her dance moves were more expressive than words. I also thought her witty sarcasms and the ultimate sisterhood love towards Maria took the production to another level.

Image appears courtesy of Scott Clare

The choreography for the dance was excellent with each gang member bringing out their own flair. I particularly enjoyed the scene where Tony and Maria lock eyes and slowly walk toward each other during the school dance.

Lisa Cooper's gorgeous voice gave me the chills / Image appears courtesy of Scott Clare

Listening to the full-length songs like 'Somewhere', "Tonight" and "I Feel Pretty" made me want to sing along. These are timeless hit songs that you would have heard in many movies or on the radio.

Image appears courtesy of Scott Clare

The one weak link in the production was the stage design. The staging looked too basic and didn't accurately reflect the mood of 1950s New York neighbourhoods. The size of the stage was too small and cramp for a production of this size. Throughout the show, the performers had to exercise care not to wreak the settings. I believe the size of the stage really restricted the dancer's capacity.

Having said that, the Director, Chapin Ayres, the Musical Director, Kane Wheatley, and the Choreographer, Stephanie Edmonds have produced a wonderful production that fuses a powerful story with song and dance.

This is a special 50th Anniversary production from one of Sydney's longest running community theatre companies - Chatswood Musical Society. This West Side Story is jam packed with all-singing, all-dancing show that is funny, thrilling, heart-breaking all at the same time. Don't miss your chance to see this at the Zenith Theatre until Saturday 21 November 2015.

Parents should note this is a contemporary Romeo and Juliet story that explores racial tension, violence and abusive behaviours within a musical format.

Tickets can be purchased through HERE.
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*GiGi GMV was invited as a guest
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When: 2pm and 7:30pm session
Phone: 1300 66 22 12
Where: Zenith Theatre Chatswood
Cost: Adult $34.90
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