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BROADWAYıS FAMOUS MUSICAL ADAPTATION OF ROMEO AND JULIET By Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents.
Director: Bill Millerd.
Choreographer: Valerie Easton.
Musical Director: Bruce Kellett.
Starring Tyley Ross, Rebecca Codling, Peter Huck, Terra C. MacLeod and Todd Talbot

with Jennifer Bishop, Kim Davis, Courtenay Dobbie, Gordon Doerkson, Jeff Irving, Stirling Karlsen, Kiara Leigh, Matt Palmer, Chancz Perry, Matthew Russell, Rnold Smith, Sal Sortino, Grant Tilly, Melissa Veszi, Amy Wallis. Design Team: Alison Green, Marsha Sibthorpe, Phillip Clarkson, and Chris Daniels. November 14 - Jan10 2003 Arts Club

West Side Story

I recently attended a jazz dance class that was being taught by a New York teacher who used a lot of the traditional Broadway musical moves. I thoroughly enjoyed the strong hand gestures, slides and finger snapping that is characteristic of the West Side Story. However, after only one class I could hardly call myself an expert, and only faintly remember the routine. So it was with excited expectation that I attended the Art’s Club Production playing at the Stanley Theatre on South Granville, Vancouver. It is directed by Bill Millerd and choreographed by Valerie Easton. I was anticipating the thrill of seeing these moves up close and professionally done, but I was disappointed to discover that the dancing was the weakest part of the show.

This was my first time at the Stanley, and I was impressed with the décor with its delicately lit dome above, cozy closed in feel and every seat appeared to have a great view of the stage. I descended the stairs from the top to my balcony seat to the view of the back alley brick buildings set with fluorescent spray painted writing. It was very authentic looking and it set the mood immediately with multi-layers showing windows to bedrooms and stores, high walkways and steel ladders. The set took up half the small stage and I wondered how the performers would have room to do all the running leaps and jumps off the walls.

The scene opened with ‘Jet Song’ with all round outstanding singing from the gang members Peter Huck, who played Bernado, Stirling Karlsen as A-Rab and Jeff Irving as Baby John. But their moves were simple and contained, not the explosion of energy I had expected. The scenes continued in much the same way, with the singing being the key focus, most notably Tyley Ross who played Tony, who sang without apparent effort, capturing the high of falling in love with each note sung to perfection. Matthew Russell who played Diesel/Big Deal carried himself the most like a dancer, strong lean body and confident moves.

The most outstanding and skilled dancer and performer was Melissa Veszi who played Rosalia. She had a deep full voice, and her salsa sashaying, catcalling, her chutzpah and even her looks were matched to the part.

Rebecca Codling a tall skinny, bony Maria moved in a very awkward clumsy way. I kept waiting for her to knock lamps and other objects over as she flailed her arms about as though she had no control over them. She appeared to be hamming it up and I wasn’t sure if the director had chosen to have Maria played in this unique light, but it didn’t fit the traditional petite and graceful Maria.
There were some very awkward lifting sequences, in which the partners seemed mismatched.
For example, Graziella, played by Jennifer Bishop was lifted by a partner much smaller than herself.
Perhaps the choreographer chose simple moves for the performers that were obviously not dancers, but who were chosen for their singing and acting talent alone. More attention to the detail of the costumes would have paid off as well, as the jeans the gang wore looked more like circa 1999 than 1950, with only the cuffs turned up to give the illusion of that era. The stage was used effectively, what little space there was to move in, but I think even for the actor with limited dancing skill, at least more bold hand gestures would have given a little spice to the otherwise mundane and disappointing dance sequences. Perhaps the rest of the audience weren’t as picky about that, the singing and acting more than made up for it.

For this performance I would have paid around the $25-35 mark, but expected more for $52.00. The Art’s Club Black and Gold Revue was much more reasonably priced, with electrifying dance numbers (I was even pulled onstage at one point), that matched the spine tingling singing and solid all round performance.

© Jenny Brown December 2002

A Review

10 Steps to a Successful Wedding
Jenny Brown
with a sureshot guide to weddings in Vancouver
'Everyone want a happy wedding - but what can you do to make sure all goes well'?

Budget Shopping Advice for Clothing Junkies
Jenny Brown
'Of course I needed that new top'

Van Dusen Gardens
Jenny Brown takes a walk in Vancouver's 'secret garden'

Michael Wright will soon be ‘The Happiest Fag in the World’
a Vancouver personality on the ‘up and coming list’.

Jenny Brown

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