West Side Story

rani's picture

Indi and Noe and Yodhi gave me a ticket to the best seat for West Side Story in Esplanade. I was really excited about that!

Oh this photo below was taken by Indi during his turn to watch WSS. He got the cheapest ticket but with best balcony view too.

This is me with Marla McReynolds (Shark Dancer) and Lana Gordon (Anita)

In summary

  • Maria and Anita rocks! Tony needs more practice, but he's overall good too. Anybodys was great too. Kudos!
  • However, I just felt that the orchestra plays the music a bit too hastily. Perhaps my problem is that I listen too much of the Bernstein's 1985 version, which has a more "expressive" orchestra rendition as reflected in the pace, tempo, breaks, and dynamics.
  • Nevertheless among all other musicals that I have watched, I think West Side Story is the most difficult to sing yet the most beautiful, as you can observe in the melody, syncopation, and dynamics.
  • I think esplanade is stingy and tried to make money out of everything. Everything is grossly overpriced. They don't even distribute free programs of the show. This is to the disadvantage of the audience as well as the actors, who are not properly acknowledged through a printed program

Let me continue with my experience then.

So, on Saturday 29 April I woke up late from my morning nap, and had to rush to Esplanade. Luckily there are a lot of taxis. And since I haven't had any lunch, I went to Ichiban Sushi and had some salmon maki before proceeding to go to the theater.

Indeed, it was the best seat. I was sitting right behind the conductor and had great visibility of the whole stage. By leaning my body a bit, I could see the whole orchestra. The orchestra was not as big as compared to Bernstein's 1985 version. I think the orchestra just fulfils the minimum requirement.

The stage was set in a simple staircases frame resembling New York City fire escapes. This frame was movable, and together with the projected backdrop, the stage was transformed from city streets, to Doc's shop, to bridal shop, to gym, and the rumble under the highway.

Also there are Chinese subtitle on the sides of the screen. I don't understand why esplanade does not install subtitling system on the chairs, which is adjustable to as many languages as you want, just like in Vienna Staatoper. Esplanade should better do that if you really want to be a world class theater.

Tony was played by Gabriel something, I don't remember. Basically almost the whole cast changed from what is written in the brochures.

I saw that the person sitting next to me managed to get the program. So I asked him where he got the program. He said he had to buy the program for ten dollars outside. It was ridiculous! No program was distributed for free for the audience, YOU HAVE TO BUY IT??? Even Vienna Staatoper gives away free program for the cheapest ticket! I pay for the best seat and I don't get any program?

Besides, the cast has been changed from the original version. How am I supposed to know the current cast, if no program was distributed? I am sure the casts would be furious to know that they were not acknowledged through distributed printed programs. When we spoke to Lana (Anita) and Marla (Shark Girl), they shared the same sentiment.

It opened with the Prologue and continued Jets Song, which has a quite well choreographed street fighting scene. However seemed that the dancers are not yet "on fire", perhaps because this was a matinee show.

Then Tony appeared in Doc's shop. "Something's Coming" was sung neatly.

The dances started to be on fire in the scene "Dance at the Gym". However, the music director cut short the "Cha-cha" section just before the Tony and Maria meeting scene. Too bad, it was just my favorite part in the music.

Then "Maria" was played, one of the most beautiful songs played in this musical. Tony decided to sing the opera version of the song (there are two versions of the Reff. Part of this song, one is opera version just like Carreras sung in 1985 recording, and the other is the musical version, just like in the movie version). This opera version is considerably more difficult, containing long passage with high notes. Tony had to resort to doing falsetto to cope with the high notes, and was visibly out of breath after the long passage. Fortunately, the flaws did not ruin the beauty of the song.

The "Tonight" balcony scene was sung beautifully. This is the first time Maria sings on stage. And I was truly captivated by this Maria. So captivating, that Maria seems to overpower Tony in this particular production. But the "Tonight" duet was perfect.

Then come my favorite piece, "America". This piece must be quite challenging for the actresses because they had to sing and dance at the same time. The dance was really great, they're all flying! Of course Anita was the star of the stage during this part. And the chorus was really harmonious too. However, the orchestra seems to lack in something, a kick, I'm not sure what, perhaps because the size of the orchestra was small, so that the forte was not as big as the 1985 version.

"Cool" was not as hot as America, but the dance was equally great.

Then the duet "One Hand One Heart" was as romantic as "Tonight (Balcony Scene).

Then the quintet ensemble "Tonight" was played. Unexpectedly, I think this piece was performed better than the 1985 version. The quintet was really harmonious but not as jumbled as the 1985 version. Also, the visual expression on stage (lighting, dance, etc) was really in sync with the music.

The first act was closed with "The Rumble" and death of the members of the gangs.

During the intermission, I found this booth that sells the program for 10 dollars, an extremely expensive price for something that supposed to be given out for free. Also, this booth sells music books of the West Side story, for a steep 120 dollars! What a rip off! I bought my piano score in Amazon for mere 40 dollars plus 20 dollars shipping.

Also the people who were in the booth apparently do not know the product they're selling. When I wanted to see the Symphonic Dances music book, I asked them, whether it is the same as the one being performed. They were really busy, so that they just quickly responded, "Yes it's the same!" We all know that the Symphonic Dances is not the same as the play itself, yet the people there trying to cheat me out by saying something different? Or perhaps they really don't know what they're selling.

I am pretty much pissed off by esplanade stinginess and their effort in making money from everything. Sooner or later, they would charge the toilet too, perhaps??

Then act two started with "I Feel Pretty". It was beautiful and sweet but I felt that the tempo was too fast. Perhaps I listen too much of Bernstein waltz-ish rendition of this song.

The "Dream" ballet sequence was danced beautifully by the entire company. It was complemented with the minimalist stage setting.

"Krupke" was performed really funnily by the boys.

"A Boy Like That" was also unexpectedly sung more beautifully than the 1985 version.

Shortly after the finale, the show finished. I think they deserved a standing ovation.


Re: West Side Story

I want to find Marla McReynolds...an old roommate of hers!

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