Dr Gemma Regan
I'm a writer, arts reviewer, a scientist, a UFO researcher and a Radio host for 4ZZZ 102.1FM with my show The Witching Hour exploring the paranormal, conspiracy and the esoteric. www.4zzzfm.org.au/program/the-witching-hour
The spectacular live 19 piece orchestra lead by Concert Master and violinist Christa Powell added a Broadway pizazz to the seamless musical production often missing in reproductions of West Side Story
West Side Story hit the stage with an operatic bang after initially being postponed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a wild ride watching the teenage gangs of New York duking it out for supremacy, inspired by the Capulet's and Montague's of Shakespeare's ill-fated romance in Romeo and Juliet. Jerome Robbins worked with the maestro and composer Leonard Bernstein, playwright Arthur Laurents and lyricist Stephen Sondheim to create the iconic Broadway musical hit in 1957. After a mixed reception, awards started flowing with two Tony Awards in 1958 for choreography and set design and then 10 Oscars for the 1961 movie adaptation which delivered the Broadway musical to a worldwide audience.
Feuding for street supremacy between the recent Puerto Rican immigrants and the local teenagers can easily translate into any multicultural situation, whether in New York, London or Brisbane. Opera Australia has combined the best Australian operatic voices with the outstanding unmatched original choreography of Jerome Robbins as a stunning showcase of Australian talent, directed by Joey McNeely.
A Broadway Spectacular
The velvet voice of the besotted Tony of the Jets played by Nigel Huckle was like a rich hot chocolate causing you to hold your breath with the exquisite timbre of each note. Huckle has performed around the world as an actor and singer and was a member of the Australian Platinum-selling The Ten Tenors. Tony's lovestruck Maria, sister of the Sharks leader Bernardo, debuted professionally in 2019 with West Side Story. She is Principle Young Artist with Opera Australia and won the coveted 2020 Australian Opera Awards Committee Dame Joan Sutherland Award for her role as Rosina in The Barber of Seville. The synergy between these two bright stars was electric.
Tony and Maria
The Queensland Conservatorium graduate Angelina Thompson plays Bernardo's moll, Anita and had an equally powerful voice that combined well with the fiery style of Temujin Tera as Bernardo. Noah Mullins was the level-headed Jet's leader Riff, all three actors had the full package of talents to wow the audience from start to finish.
The unmatched choreography of Jerome Robbins which was maintained incorporates many ballet techniques. Most of the dances were performed barefoot, giving it a more natural tribal feel. One noticeable change was the slower than usual speed of the Latin sounding song America. It did not seem to pop as much with a slower staccato rhythm.
Ballet and Opera combined
The set designed by Paul Gallis was a series of multi-layered moveable fire escapes with a backdrop of 1950s New York street imagery. It was extremely effective as most scenes are set in the streets of New York evoking the dangers of ill-lit backstreet alleys. Renate Schmitzer's costumes were vibrant in colour, shunning the more common leather jackets of the Sharks and replacing them with more Latino-styled suits and dresses of reds and pinks. The Jets colour scheme was equally bold, sporting shiny silver baseball jackets matched with peach ties.
In the Backstreets of New York
The spectacular live 19 piece orchestra lead by Concert Master and violinist Christa Powell added a Broadway pizazz to the seamless musical production often missing in reproductions of West Side Story. Musical highlights were the iconic Maria performed by the velvet-voiced Nigel Huckle, the heart-melting duet Somewhere, and the comical Gee, Officer Krupke.
West Side Story is an iconic crowd-pleaser that cannot fail to satiate most tastes, incorporating live classical music with operatic singing and a combination of ballet and modern dance.
If you are in a wheelchair or have access issues fear not. I attended in a wheelchair due to a broken leg and was looked after and accommodated by the lovely QPAC staff, so there is no excuse to take advantage of the amazing facilities and terrific talent here in Queensland.
With a limited timeframe of only a month in Brisbane, I urge everyone to see it!