290421_Westside_BOPzhs.JPG The mambo dancers. Photo / Third Party Media
290421_mambo_BOPzhs.JPG The gangs face off. Photo / Third Party Media
290421_Westside_BOPzhs1.JPG By Zoe Hunter
What: West Side Story
Where: Westside Theatre, 17th Ave, Tauranga
When: April 23 to May 8
What an entrance.
There is something captivating about watching choreography to a lyricless song.
One by one, the two New York City gangs of West Side Story enter the 17th Ave theatre's stage.
They're immediately captivating.
Breaking into groups, the leaders of the Jets and Sharks - Bernado and Riff played by Leroi Kippen and Fletcher Oxford - are left locked in a dance battle.
I'm drawn into this adaptation of Shakespeare's romantic tragedy of Romeo and Juliet.
Set in 1951, Tauranga Musical Theatre's presentation of the original Jerome Robbins production tells the love story of Maria and Tony who plan to secretly marry and run away.
But Maria's fallen in love with the wrong man and the Sharks, led by her brother Bernardo, and the Jets plan a rumble under the highway. Maria sends Tony to stop it but tragedy strikes.
The dancing continues at a town dance with the girls swishing and shaking their colourful Spanish-style skirts to the mambo (well done wardrobe team on this one).
Elly-Ann Pritchard's experience in partner dance choreography really suits this show, with the cast showing off some tricky ballroom moves.
But it's Ashleen Fahy who gets the credit for bringing the wow factor. She's done an incredible job as musical director.
Wesley Graham, as Tony, and Kelsie Tong, as Maria, make the perfect duet.
Hearing Graham sing Maria sent goosebumps down my spine and he uses the stage perfectly, making the audience follow his every move.
Tong's elegant voice had the two women sitting in front of me hugging each other and searching for tissues to dab their eyes.
Leroi Kippen and Courtney Smith - as Bernardo and Anita - with their brilliant dance moves and stage presence were standout performers for me.
Fletcher Oxford, as Riff, has also come a long way from singing songs about his cat Sushi on New Zealand's Got Talent. He's all grown up now and still rocks it on stage.
And there was a sneaky wee duet from Tayla Skudder and Michelle Parnell, as Francisca and Rosalia, that also caught my attention.
The only downfall was the show is slightly on the longer side with the first half going for nearly an hour and a half - so make sure you use the bathroom before the show!
The floor stage also made parts of the show hard to see from some seats - so it pays to arrive early to get a good spot.
Overall, director Darrel Nitschke has done a great job bringing this show to life. It's got all the goods from romance and comedy to heartbreak and tragedy.
Congratulations to the cast and crew of West Side Story, we're all still so lucky to be able to enjoy community theatre in a Covid-19 world.