Magic ‘West Side’ slays the genre for SA
JUST as rigamortis sets in on the life and time of local theatre, the magnitude and magnificence of this mesmerising production of West Side Story jolts one into a renewed conviction of our abundance to redeem a theatre that is pulsating, energised and very much alive.
We have a pulse! It is alive! The Fugard Theatre’s production of West Side Story is a celebration of local talent, skill and expertise on par with the best that the world has to offer. From its visionary inception, its immaculate theatrical machinery, to its cast of passionate and consummate performers, the production is a tour de force of local proficiency and prodigy.
Director Matthew Wild intentionally steered away from localisation and modernisation.
Not only does the production’s “universal slant” accommodate the authenticity of the original Broadway production, it also lends itself to accessibility for diverse audiences. Set designer Conor Murphy ingeniously captures this universal space within an urban concrete jungle that may just as well be in the heart of Joburg.
To add to its local relevance, Wild comments, “The violent subject matter seems unnervingly close to home.” Pertinent to our social climate, executive director of The Fugard Theatre, Daniel Galloway, poignantly adds, “In times of madness, this magic of the theatre allows us to escape and to reflect.”
Wild is one of those rare visionaries who appears to concretely manifest his flights of imagination on the theatre stage. His work is immaculately clinical in execution, yet wildly passionate at heart, making for an exhilarating theatre experience.
Choreographer Louisa Talbot is simply riveting. She doesn’t miss a single accent, climax, pause or syncopation and permeates every nuance with sculpted movement that captures the essence of every expression in the music. Her vivacious jazz choreography escalates the wave of the production’s already feverishly fast pace.
Musical director and conductor CharlJohan Lingenfelder is astounding, handling Leonard Bernstein’s score and quirky vocal musicality with masterful finesse.
Lynelle Kenned (as Maria) gives a magical portrayal with tremendous vocal prowess and a gripping and refreshing stage personality. Christopher Jaftha’s portrayal as Bernardo is stylishly constructed with intricate and detailed characterisation in a slick and powerful performance.
His physicality is remarkable and his Puerto Rican accent is flawless.
Jonathan Roxmouth’s songs are tapestries of interwoven vocal colours, tones and textures, which he subtly uses to bring across the spirit of the music. He evokes compassion with his soulful voice and sensitive delivery. An astounding performance.
As for the rest of the cast, it is barely possible to distinguish performances as every performer, without fail, impresses with sumptuous work. This is a fantastic theatre experience!
Bianca la Grange and (left) Jonathan Roxmouth in the fantastic West Side Story, in which every performer impresses with sumptuous work.