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.

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