REVIEWS: West Side Story, The Big Easy and Krapp’s Last Tape

Some of the cast of West Side Story at the Sheffield Lyceum Theatre
Some of the cast of West Side Story at the Sheffield Lyceum Theatre

Our reporters have been out and about reviewing some of the best shows the region has to offer.

west side story, sheffield lyceum theatre

For more than half a century, since 1957, following a battle to stage a musical that features such raw and gritty realism, West Side Story has been a classic that has wowed audiences all over the world.

With its winning mix of Romeo and Juliet tragedy of love, conflict, feuding and death, woven through with vibrant song and dance, and Bernstein-Sondheim melodies to melt the heart, this production also earned a fair share of whistles and whoops.

Large strutty structures of simple balconies and cleverly manoeuvred stair ladders fill the stage, set against alternating backdrops of vibrant colour and monochrome images of Manhatten, before which the gangs of Jets and Sharks dance with admirable balletic agility, doing justice to director Joey McKneeley’s energetic, elegantly choreographed patterns of stylised fights, thuggery and even rape.

One drawback of stylised rivalry and thuggery, though, is that it can lose that sense of palpable tension, hostility and immediacy.

We could do with some more of that.

Splendid immediacy comes, though, from Katie Hall as Maria, the sweet, floating, spine-tingling tones of her beautiful singing filled, at every moment, with life and emotion. (No wonder the Phantom of the Opera was so taken with her!)

Djalenga Scott is another who is vital and engaging and she has great stage presence as feisty, fiery Anita. Songs in which either or both women feature like Tonight, One Hand - One Heart, I feel Pretty, and A Boy Like That, earn heavy applause, as does Maria’s harmonies in classic duets with Tony (Louis Maskell).

The more comedic numbers, America and Gee, Officer Krupke, from others of the ensemble, are big favourites too, while particularly impressive is an idealised scene, in which many of the ensemble are dressed in dreamy white to sing and dance a haunting Somewhere.

Musical Director Ben Van Tienen enjoys himself so much as he conducts his way through this iconic score, he’s just about dancing himself.

- Eileen Caiger Gray

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Music

The big easy, Cast Theatre, Doncaster

Although trumpeter Jon Scully has previously brought various popular attractions to the Doncaster area, Jon and his fellow musicians must have been delighted and no doubt surprised to attract a near sell-out crowd at The Cast Theatre recently and by the ensuing rapturous welcome.

Following on from the opening number I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, featuring Jon on vocals, came Ellington’s famed flag-waver It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing) and Love Me Or Leave Me the first of several breathtaking nimble fingered guitar solos by Troy Faid.

The set continued with varied popular jazz War-Horses and led into a strident version of Rhythm In Your Feet closing the first set, sending the receptive audience to seek out the bar in a happy mood.

The second set kicked off with a Sing-sing-sing Krupa styled intro from drummer Laurence Marshall on Get Rhythm In Your Feet.

This was followed by Jon’s appealing vocal on Who’s Sorry Now with Laurence this time on ukulele and vocal on Five Foot Two-eyes Of Blue and Louis Jordan’s Is You Is, Or Is You Aint My Baby?.

A truly enjoyable and varied gig from these worthy youthful trouper-doors of Jazz.

- C.J.Worsdale.

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Theatre

KRAPP’S LAST TAPE with Richard Wilson, crucible theatre, sheffield

It’s double Krapp from Richard Wilson in Samuel Beckett’s 45 minute, one act, one man play, as the 69-year-old Krapp reacts to a tape recording he made of himself at the age of 39, thereby summing up his whole ridiculous, comfortless existence.

The novelty of this production is that Krapp and his life are totally encased onstage in a rectangular box like a builder’s prefab office. We watch Krapp through the long, rectangular windows as he ambles from ancient table and chair, to messy shelves and files, unlocking stashes of booze and bananas and returning to turn on his reel-to-reel tape-recorder.

To cater for an audience in the round, from start to finish this joyless space, like his life, revolves slowly and laboriously round and round. Nice comedic moments arise from bananas, taking tipples in the dark and from playing with the delicious sounds of the words ‘spool’ and ‘viduity’, while Wilson’s Krapp, far from raging or wallowing in self-pity over a lonely life that’s amounted to little, largely brings us numb resignation. He’s glad it’s all over and done with.

It would be too cruel to say so are we, but it’s true that, for the most part, the noisy, groaning barrier of the Beckett box with its perpetual motion and receding views does spoil the impact and intimacy of the play. Though we see Krapp’s isolation, it’s hard to really feel it from so far outside. Maybe complexity is still better achieved in the simple, the static and the silent.

- Eileen Caiger Gray