The Most Beautiful Sound . . .

For a theatre company, reaching the milestone of fifty shows is not an easy feat. Especially when they still continue to fill Melbourne’s enormous State Theatre. But The Production Company’s fiftieth musical, West Side Story, is a testament to their longevity and leaves the audience wanting to see their next fifty shows.

West Side Story has quite a legacy. It has played Broadway three times. It has played the West End three times. The film version won ten Academy Awards, including Best Picture. And the popular show has toured Australia four times. Not to mention the famous songs ‘Tonight’ and ‘America’ which have reached far beyond the musical theatre audiences.

While this may mean that it is an incredibly popular show, it also means that the audience comes with high expectations. All of which were met and surpassed by The Production Company’s latest production!

Dancing around a mammoth set constructed from wire fencing and scaffolds, the talented cast proved that this production has as much relevance to modern audiences as it did when it opened in 1957. Anna O’Byrne brought her impressive operatic vocals to the role of Maria and was perfectly paired with Gareth Keegan to stop the show with the famous Tony and Maria duet, ‘Tonight’.

In a rare theatre occurrence, Anita was played by three women. Deone Zanotto was unfortunately suffering from laryngitis and lost her voice before this week’s performances commenced. However, while she continued to play the role as a mime, she danced up a storm leading the big dance numbers in the Gym and during ‘America’. To compensate for her lack of voice, Assistant Director Natalie Gilhome took over the responsibility of Anita’s speaking lines and Wicked superstar Amanda Harrison was on hand to sing Anita’s big numbers. All three actresses delivered a curtain call worthy performance – I only wish all three had come out for the curtain call!

West Side Story is known as one of the greatest dance musicals of all time and the dancing in this production certainly impressed. The two rival gangs, the Sharks and the Jets, were fiercely led by Sean Mulligan and Adam Fiorentino in amazing displays and mash-ups of dance styles. While I don’t think the gangs of today are doing jazz ballet in the streets, the impressive choreography managed to harness the sinister side of these characters to produce amazing dance routines which involved plenty of flying through the air by the ensemble.

A phenomenally talented ensemble. A big and brassy full orchestra from Orchestra Victoria delivering the well-known songs with new punch. And huge dance routines featuring the full cast. This performance proves why The Production Company has reached the milestone of fifty shows and why they will continue for another fifty more.

West Side Story only has eight more performances left and must close on Sunday 13th July. Make sure to grab your tickets, or if they sell out you might need to win them in a rumble and that didn’t work out too well in the show. Visit www.artscentremelbourne.com.au for more information.

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