BELLA BARTOCK was very impressed with the latest production by CODA, West Side Story at Fairfield Halls last week
Magical. Mesmerising. Moving. West Side Story is one of the best-loved musicals of all-time – and for good reason. The film won the Best Picture and nine others Oscars, and CODA’s production at the Fairfield Halls last week was definitely a 5-star production.
The impressive and versatile set for this Croydon Operatic and Dramatic Association production was the perfect setting, and the lighting (designed by Sam Vincent) was like an additional cast member in many places – creating tension, romance, intimacy… whatever each scene demanded. The sound (Rich Carter) brought the best out of each performance.
The energy, exuberance and frustrations of the Sharks and Jets, the two rivals gangs in this New York re-setting of Romeo and Juliet was clear, shown not only in the impressive choreography but in every moment they were on stage.
There are so many fantastic numbers in this show – how to choose a favourite? When you’re a Jet, Something’s Coming, Maria, America, Officer Krupke, I Feel Pretty, Tonight, One Han, One Heart, A Boy Like That/I Have a Love, Somewhere – all had me absolutely enthralled, especially as it was all accompanied by the luxury of a 19-piece band, under the direction of Sam Coates.
A quick name check has to be done to Carrie Stanley who sang Somewhere so beautifully as Tony and Maria danced.
The casting was absolutely spot on – to have such a large number of young men who can all sing and dance in an amateur show is particularly impressive. Special mentions to the lively Action (Alex Johnston), the anxious Baby John (Peter Wheeler) who did a hilarious social worker impression in Officer Krupke, Anybodys, the tomboy desperate to be in the gang (Beci Sageman), and Riff (Chris Watson) who led the Jets and tried to keep them all cool and in control.
As a Come Dine With Me fanatic, I spotted Keith Preddie from the Croydon episode among the Jets as well, and he proved he can do more than just Michael Jackson and Tina Turner impressions.
Bernardo (Ziggi Szafranski) and Anita (Alice Bendall) made a charismatic pair, and their dancing was captivating. The other Sharks captured the culture and pride of the Puerto Ricans perfectly, and mild-mannered Chino (Owen Moore) ended up having the pivotal role of the show.
The adults – the racist and cynical Detective Schrank (David Sanders), the much-mocked Officer Krupke (Michael Hall), and the world-weary Doc (Tony Lee) – all gave great performances, although I always feel sorry for them because they don’t get to sing that wonderful Bernstein music.
Tony (Dominic Binefa) had the whole audience in awe with such a beautiful voice – whispered comments from the audience around me included “he’s amazing” and “he must have had professional training” and “listen to that voice – I’ve got goosebumps”. Maria (Charlee Simmons) had all the innocence and delicacy of Natalie Wood from the original film, and held the audience in complete silence in the final scene as she condemns the warlike street culture that has brought this tragedy.
Well done to director Morven Rae and her production team.
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