I have watched West Side Story, the film, probably five or six times. On top of that, I was a cast member of my high school’s version of the musical, and basically lived and breathed Leonard Bernstein for my sixteenth year on this planet. I know WSS inside and out, so my standards are pretty high. Thankfully, Neptune Theatre didn’t disappoint.
A few days ago I was fortunate enough to see an early performance and was pretty much blown away. This is not an easy piece of theatre, and is demanding on many levels. The music, choreography, singing, and scene transitions all require mastering the material.
Neptune has it all down, and at the same time comes off as strangely novel. It’s easy to just copy the dance moves from the film, but instead the group does unexpected jumps, spins, and runs that I definitely appreciated.
My favourite bit of choreography was the amazing physical comedy in “Officer Krupte.” The Jet guys made the whole thing look effortless. I absolutely loved it.
The set was wonderfully designed, with movable walls and balconies. The night scenes are beautifully offset with glowing stars. The cast scrambles up and down set pieces, hangs from them, jumps down from them… it’s pretty awesome.
The cast was fantastic. I usually find that the earnestness of Tony and Maria bugs me, but in this performance I actually kind of liked them. Their vocal abilities were extremely impressive and they breezed through complicated songs effortlessly. I still favour the darker, more humourous characters like Riff and Anita, both fantastic in the Neptune performance, and loved songs like “Cool” and “A Boy Like That.”
I hadn’t been to Neptune in a long while, and was glad to have this piece “welcome me back.” Definitely check it out if you can. Halifax does theatre so well. I’m really looking forward to Frankenstein which starts its run at Neptune this fall.
Lauren always aims for the head. Follow her on Twitter @laurenoostveen.