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REVIEW: MTB presents “West Side Story” 24/02/2016

Last night the Student Union’s Winston Theatre exploded with the first performance of MTB’s “West Side Story”. With 4/5 shows selling out well in advance of opening night, this is clearly one of this year’s most anticipated events in student theatre. The cast and crew have created a wonderfully emotive performance, making the audience both laugh and cry almost effortlessly. MTB’s “biggest show of the year” cannot be recommended more strongly; this is a brilliant rendition of “West Side Story” that showcases a very impressive range of student talent.

“West Side Story” explores the relationship between two rival street gangs, the American “Jets” and the Puerto Rican “Sharks” and the intense conflict that occurs when they clash. The tension between the two gangs is shown from the very beginning, with an engaging opening scene that shows this primarily through dance. A special mention should go to the choreographer, Marco Andreas Lissoni, whose innovative creation of movement is one of the highlights of this production.

We move swiftly into Jet Song performed by Nathan Sames as Riff, the leader of the Jets. The Jets are incredibly strong as an ensemble, and they only get better as the play progresses. As a group they have brilliant chemistry with each other on stage, creating some of the strongest scenes of the night. One of the standout performances is from Olivia Aaron as Baby John, who is consistently hilarious.

(Image Credit: MTB Facebook)

“America”, performed by the Shark Girls, is another amazing group performance. The energetic movement and beautiful vocal harmonies make this the song that you will be singing for hours after you leave the theatre. Jude Mack, who plays Anita, is particularly brilliant in this scene. Throughout the play, she is absolutely faultless, giving both comical moments in this scene, and truly emotional moments with her final altercation with the Jets.

The moment we are first introduced to Tony, played by Luke Ward, is special. Ward delivers a phenomenal performance of Something’s Coming; his voice is one of the most impressive parts of the whole production. Watching him perform it is hard to believe that this is the first night of a student production; it is such an effortlessly captivating performance. Lily Dyble, who plays by Maria, has the same level of skill. Maria begins “West Side Story” as an innocent young girl caught up in the whirlwind of her first love and Dyble captures this perfectly, especially through her performance of “I Feel Pretty” at the beginning of Act Two. Towards the end of the final act Maria has lost her romanticized ideals and has felt the harsh realities of the gang culture. The final scene is so powerful. There is complete silence as Dyble delivers her final lines; she gives such a strong and emotional reaction to Tony’s death that stays with you after you leave. The relationship between Tony and Maria is performed in such a believable, heart-warming way and every scene they have together is a joy to watch.

The most moving moment for me came from Mhairi Angus, who sings “Somewhere.” Her beautiful voice, combined with the unity of the cast around her when she performs, makes this probably the most special moment of the night. “West Side Story” is one of the most impressive pieces of student theatre that I’ve seen. Every single member of the cast gives such an energetic and enthralling performance, making the production almost irreproachable. There are very limited tickets available for the matinee performance of 27th February available here.

★★★★★

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