Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Theatre Memphis' West Side Story

I'm a recent convert, but I've come to see the value of seeing the stage versions of these big musicals that I fell in love with on film. Chorus Line taught me a valuable lesson. Tonight we saw West Side Story at Theatre Memphis. My one complaint was the orchestra, which overshadowed the singers. We had trouble hearing some of the singers' words. The instrumentalists could back off some without losing anything, and the singers wouldn't get lost behind them.

The play was long, lasting 2 1/2 hours with a short intermission, but we enjoyed every minute. The sets were striking. The Husband and I each commented on that. Not much had to be moved on and off the stage, so there was no distraction from the actors, yet each scene was distinctive. We liked the way the windows were done.

I had wondered how they would cast it, and they cast it with lighter-skinned actors in one gang and darker skinned actors in the other. I heard they had trouble finding enough people (Chris Blank, linked below, notes it), but I wouldn't have known that just from watching and listening. The leads are strong. I'm not sure why the Jets wannabe Anybodys especially caught my eye, but she did. The Husband particularly liked Doc.

Chris Blank of the Commercial Appeal has an article but no review yet. ArtsMemphis has 2 photos. If I find reviews I'll add them.

The photo above is their publicity poster.

6/18/2008: The Memphis Flyer has a review. Chris Davis says, "There's not a harder working cast in Memphis at the moment." On the lighting:
Matthew Strampe's lighting is like a kiss that forgives a multitude of sins. It meshes with the more theatrical elements of McCollum's sets and makes this West Side Story's best moments, such as fight choreographer Pam Hurley's rhythmic rumbles, seem magical.

6/20/2008: Christopher Blank has a review in the Commercial Appeal which mentions the 2 characters we were so impressed with:
Leighann Colin is precious as the scampering pipsqueak tomboy Anybodys. Kudos to the marvelous Barry Fuller as Doc, who in the final scene holds the entire weight of the musical on his slumped shoulders.
and notes
an effective set by Christopher McCollum and gorgeous lighting by Matthew Strampe
. He has a link to his video review.

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