Monday, January 21, 2013

REVIEW: West Side Story (Paris)

Théâtre du Châtelet (Paris), Saturday December 29

On to the 12th show of my 14 shows in 13 days marathon. I was immediately disappointed when I saw the staging of this West Side Story as I feel that I have seen it before and that the staging was not very original. It was until I saw the ladies singing and dancing America barefooted that I realized that there is that slight possibility that it was actually the same production that I have seen before back in 2005... in Macau! Well, it is the same production! Immediately, the comparison went right straight to the role of Tony. Once in a while, I would go to a theatre and came out thinking, “Gosh, he/she is really good!”; and I would try to find out more about that artist and wonder why he or she is not more famous. Well, in the 2005 performance of this production in Macau, I came out of the theatre amazed at the talent of a young actor by the name of Josh Young. Luckily, his CD was available at the venue and for 8 years now, the CD has been a mainstay in my iPhone and I have also purchased his second CD! Since I saw Young, he has made his Broadway debut playing Judas in the revival of Jesus Christ Superstar, for which he was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical and won the Theatres World Award for an Outstanding Broadway Debut Performance. What all these mean is that Liam Tobin, who played Tony in this Paris run, has a high standard to meet and most unfortunately, he came in below.
Liam Tobin is your typical tall and good-looking male lead. His voice has a beautiful tone though it tends to vary in different ranges. Unfortunately, in the evening that I attended, his voice came across as lacking in support which affected some of the top notes. Diana Becker as Maria fared better. She was vocally and dramatically effective, though her rapport with Tobin had a lot to be desired for. Yarina Marin delivered an outstanding portrayal of Anita with equal confidence in both singing and dancing. One of the negatively memorable moments in this production was America. I still don’t understand why the director chose to have the ladies dance it barefooted. It stood out in 2005 and it once again stood out in this performance. I can’t help but feel that it was equivalent to transposing down a song to accommodate a singer. In general, the rest of the cast did well and when it comes to dancing, I believe that they did a better job than the 2005 cast. In fact, I have the impression that the general emphasis of this production was more in dance rather than the singing.
The staging was simple and looked very much like a set for a ballet rather than a Broadway musical. Having said that, the series of the signature New York fire escapes that evoked the Upper West Side neighborhood and the cityscape projections on the screen were effective enough to plunge the audience into the setting of this famous Shakespearean story. At the end of the day, the star of this musical is the music of Leonard Bernstein, lyrics of Stephen Sondheim and most importantly the concept and choreography of Jerome Robbins. It was quite exciting to see how the dances actually advance the story, while it is nothing new these days, it must be most astonishing to see it in Broadway in 1957!
If I had known that it was the same production as the 2005 Macau staging, I would have chosen to see Bizet’s Carmen at the Bastille.
West Side Story
Creative Team:
Music: Leonard Bernstein
Book: Arthur Laurents
Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim
Originals choregraphies: Jerome Robbins
Musical supervisor & direction: Donald Chan
Direction (alternately): Ben van Tienen
Direction & Choregraphy remade by: Joey McKneely
Settings: Paul Gallis
Costumes: Renate Schmitzer
Lighting design: Peter Halbsgut
Sound: Rick Clarke

Cast includes:
Tony: Liam Tobin
Maria: Diana Becker
Anita: Yarina Marin
Riff: Drew Nellessen
Bernardo: Pepe Muños

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