Prom 38: West Side Story

Colourful, exuberant and loud: I’ve been at the afternoon performance of one of the most popular of all of this year’s Prom concerts, there are two performances of the same programme; not many programmes get a second airing. The broad audience for musical theatre queued in their droves, this a clearly a bargain for the many tourists who come to London for the musicals. and I am told that the queue for day tickets was already long at 9am. A predominantly girlie audience amongst the promenaders down at the front of the arena. And the concert performance was great fun with lots of exuberant energy. Orchestra and singers with amplification, which is required for the style of musical theatre but does reduce the subtlety of the sound.

Leonard Bernstein’s music for West Side Story stands out from almost all other popular works for musical theatre, it is in many ways the original crossover work. This concert performance with the John Wilson Orchestra brought out the depth and colour of Berstein’s rich and dynamic score. I found the speeds a bit fast at times, great for the gang scenes, but Maria and Tonight could have breathed more.
And was this a performance for the lyrics or the music? The words were clear to hear but in the Prom situation of a semi-staged performance and without the benefit of extensive setting or dance and even with the performers projecting their acting characterisations through skinny t-shirts and super-skinny jeans, it was Leonard Bernstein’s music which sang through the most clearly in this razor sharp perfomance. A lot of applause, even by Proms standards.


Prom 38
Leonard Bernstein: West Side Story (authorised concert version)

Mikaela Bennett: Maria
Ross Lekites: Tony
Eden Espinosa: Anita
Leo Roberts: Riff
Gian Marco Schiaretti: Bernardo
Emma Kingston: Rosalia
Laila Zaidi: Francisca
Jocasta Almgill: Consuelo
Christopher Jordan Marshall: Snowboy
Alistair Brammer: Action
Jack North: Baby John
Michael Colbourne: Diesel
Fra Fee: A-Rab
Louise Alder: Soprano (Somewhere)
Students from ArtsEd and Mountview
Stephen Whitson: Stage Director
John Wilson Orchestra
John Wilson: conductor