West Side Story at the Ferneham Hall Fareham Review

31 May to 2 June 2018

Reviewed by Sally Carter

Last night (31 May 2018) I took my 9-year-old daughter to see, West Side Story presented by Stage One Youth Theatre at the Ferneham Hall in Fareham.

I had explained to my daughter briefly beforehand what the plot line was and that it involved some scenes of fighting and to bring tissues!

West Side Story is an award-winning musical from 1955 loosely based on Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. With lyrics written by Stephen Sondheim and music by Leonard Bernstein, it marked a turning point in American musical theatre with its dark theme, sophisticated music, extended dance scenes and focus on social problems. This musical saw Sondheim’s debut on Broadway and later led to the award-winning film released in 1961.

It features two opposing gangs – The Polish-American “Jets” and the Puerto Rican “Sharks”, highlighting life growing up in immigrant rich America in the late 50’s.

Despite what must seem to our ‘modern day’ children, like simple and ‘babyish’ depictions of gang life and fight scenes, West Side Story can still deliver a whole range of emotional responses through its comic like themes of menace, fear, discrimination and love. The moral message of the story still managing to shin through strong and clear!

This was my first experience of a Stage One Youth Theatre production. The company currently have children ranging from 10 to 18 years of age. Affiliated to the National Operatic & Dramatic Association (NODA) they meet weekly at Mayfield School in Portsmouth and perform 3 times over a 2 year period at Ferneham Hall. You can find out more about supporting or indeed joining them, by visiting the website: www.stageoneyouththeatre.co.uk

WOW – What a talented bunch of young performers they are! As the wonderful live orchestra began to play the performers started to come out on stage. A few nervous faces could be seen as the show began, but these soon melted away as the cast danced, sung and acted their hearts out.

This can be a difficult musical to pull off, but these kids really did give it their all. I felt the boys in particular were very strong, and a special mention is particularly deserved for Ethan Emery who played Tony. What a voice! Absolutely sublime, if he wants it and works for it, that boy has the potential to go far. His natural acting style, ability to dance and amazing vocals really captured the whole audience’s attention. Sian Samways played Maria’s innocent naivety well too and although initially she seemed nervous, she hit those top notes with ease, soon relaxed and enjoyed the performance. The end scene in particular was played with real emotion and sensitivity.

The team at Stage One Youth Theatre have a lot to feel proud about. Jacqui Ivemy, Director, Dennis Brombley, who stepped in as Musical Director at short notice, Steve Clark, Stage Manager and Matt Newman, Choreographer not only obviously work well together, but know how to bring out the best in their young people too!

I love West Side Story and I was not disappointed at all with this production! Well done Stage One Youth Theatre – I look forward to seeing your next production, which I believe will be, Cats!

As always, the welcoming and friendly team of staff and volunteers at Ferneham Hall were on hand to help with everything from finding our seats, to interval drinks and ice-creams. It really is so amazing for Fareham to have this theatre which not only provides top-notch entertainment in the form of recognised comedy, musical acts and plays for all the family, but also gives our youth and community performers a platform to showcase their talents and experience what it’s like to perform for large audiences in a purpose-built theatre.

Rating: 5/5

Tickets cost £12 (bookings fees may apply).

West Side Story is at the Ferneham Hall in Fareham from 31 May to 2 June 2018, for more information or to book tickets visit www.fernehamhall.co.uk or call the box office on 01329 231942.

Ferneham Hall, Osborn Road, Fareham, Hampshire, PO16 7DB | 01329 231942

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