July 2018

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Here are rehearsal scenes from the recent successful West Side Story musical which lit up the stage at Queen’s Hall from Thursday, June 21 through Sunday, June 24. PHOTOS: ATIBA CUDJOE

A stirring story of star-crossed young lovers, warring gangs and passionate dancing, music and song entertained local theatre-goers recently at the June 21-24 production of West Side Story at Queen’s Hall in Port of Spain. Must Come See Productions (MCS) brought some authentic Broadway to the local theatre world, and co-producer Jessel Murray said he was delighted to have MCS return to the stage after four years with this landmark work of music theatre.

West Side Story is a classic of American musical theatre, based on a story by playwright and screenwriter Arthur Laurents, with original music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Writer Laurents was inspired by William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet when he penned West Side Story.

The original story was set in the Upper West Side neighbourhood in New York City in the mid-1950s, an ethnic, blue-collar neighbourhood. The musical explored the rivalry between the Jets and the Sharks, two teenage street gangs of different ethnic backgrounds. The members of the Sharks, from Puerto Rico, are taunted by the Jets, a white gang. The young protagonist, Tony, a former member of the Jets and best friend of the gang's leader, Riff, falls in love with Maria, the sister of Bernardo, the leader of the Sharks. The dark theme, sophisticated music, extended dance scenes, and focus on social problems marked a turning point in American musical theatre.

The recent Trinidad production of West Side Story was a presentation of MCS Productions in collaboration with the Department of Creative and Festival Arts (DCFA), UWI. It was licensed under Music Theatre International.

The character of Maria was played by Zayna McDonald, and Tony was played by Kyle Richardson. Other actors included Michailean Taylor as Riff; newcomer Albert Smith as Bernardo; Syntyche Bishop of the National Theatre Arts Company as Anita; and Chris Smith as Doc. The MCS-produced West Side Story was directed by Louis Mc Williams, lecturer and Coordinator of Theatre Arts at the DCFA. Jessel Murray was music director as well as conductor of the live band. Sally Crawford-Shepherd, the Coordinator of Dance at the DCFA, choreographed, and Dara Jordan-Brown was the scenic designer. Donna Bertrand and Asha Stewart were the stage managers.

Jessel Murray, Chairman of Must Come See Productions, commented:

“This production is a catharsis of sorts for me. It is the depiction of two idealistic people who were trying to bridge the artificial divides that society imposes. The story asks real questions of who owns a space, and what are our perceived reactions to people who choose to inhabit our space.”

On the music, Murray said: “Eminent American composer Leonard Bernstein held nothing back in fashioning the score for this musical, which combines elements of Jazz and Latin rhythms. He utilises complex rhythms and sometimes dissonant sounds that aptly serve the lyrics of Stephen Sondheim – a Broadway legend in his own right. The original production was choreographed by the legendary Jerome Robbins and we mixed in aspects of his original choreography.”

Must Come See Productions:
Email: info@mcsproductions.org.
Website: www.mcsproductions.org