Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Young Gen at the Civic Theatre

Jim Hutchon was at the Saturday matinée:

This was another near faultless production from CYGAMS, one of the most ‘professional’ amateur groups in the town, the fourth time they have revisited West Side since 1978.
Lead male, Tony, was played with an effortless voice and great presence by Sam Toland, with terrific support from his Maria, Emma Bennett –especially in their duets, such as ‘One Hand, one heart’. Bart Lambert and Henri de Lausun, as gang leaders, exuded testosterone all over each other and really gave the action muscle. It would be invidious to pick out other parts; the strength of the production is in the depth of talent they can call on, and all performed with distinction.
I felt the costumes made the actors more clean-cut grammar school than hopeless drop-outs, which jarred with the superbly run-down sets. And the choreography, by ex-Young Gen Gavin Wilkinson, though commendably high energy and with immaculate discipline, was a little stereotyped. Musical Direction was by Bryan Cass.
In a throwaway line in the programme the President Peter Smith called this group “the class of 2010”, and it is a sort of Fame Academy. These blockbuster productions are the graduation ceremony, presided over by the benevolent presence of Ray Jeffery pulling the strings. Afterwards, graduates will disperse, some to other groups, but many will never go on stage again. But they will never lose the sense of confidence and self-assurance they have gained.

Photograph by Christopher Yorke-Edwards

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I went along to the theatre on the Friday performance, I enjoyed the show overall and feel that your review is fairly accurate, However while I agree that the choreography was stereotypical at least it was modern. The rest of the show was a bit like stepping back to the 70s. This is often the case with young gen productions but was highlighted in this particular show because of the nature of the dance numbers. The characters were more like caricatures a bit paper thin and predictable. Dont get me wrong, the actors played them very well, particularly Bart Lambert who for me was the best all rounder on the stage, a tremendous actor. I found Sam Tolands characterization of Tony a lttle bland, strange after his tremendous portrayal of the masochistic dentist in the previous show but that may well have been down to the director putting effort into poses, pictures and style, there seemed to be several cases of movement for no reason, an example was cast constantly putting their legs on chairs as if on cue, it was just not natural. The overall impression was style over substance and with the tremendous story that is West Side Story this element made it very dated. There were a few wonderful moments " Somewhere " was truly beautifully sung by Katherine Peacock, the America dance was a joy, this was counter balanced by some odd moments, When Tony Died Maria sung her heart out and that did not sit well with me, while she sung the song perfectly again I did not feel that she was pining for her lost love, she was simply singing the song, not a break or a sob in sight, again this is down to the director, that approach would have been fine 30 years ago but it is not what you expect from modern theatre. I am not sure that the next production Whistle down the wind will fare much better, West Side has the advantage of being a superb show to start with, Whistle down the wind does not.Overall 2 stars

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