From the first snap to the final bang, Brampton Music Theatre’s rendition of West Side Story is truly spectacular.
For those who aren’t familiar, West Side Story is based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. But, this musical is anything but traditional. Set in the streets of New York two opposing gangs, the Sharks and the Jets, face off — and in the midst of it all, a love story between the two sides brews.
Fifteen minutes before the show starts, when the audience is filing in, some of the cast members are on stage already in character. This sets the mood for the first act and provides a fun and entertaining space to walk into. While you’re getting seated and watching the characters on stage you’ll have time to admire the amazing set that was crafted for the show.
Musical Director and president of the Brampton Music Theatre board, Sharon Vandrish, has been a part of BMT off and on for thirty years. She has seen the company thrive as she’s been alongside for the ride.
“[For West Side Story] We decided to go with a younger cast, they’ve really pulled it together and delivered this week in such an incredible way,” says Vandrish.
She says other than the four adults in the cast most of them are between the ages of 13 to 19. She says they have high expectations for their performers, but this cast really delivered for their production debut. I couldn’t agree more.
The cast is packed with extremely talented dancers, singers and actors. Gabriela Farias is the perfect Maria and along side Katrina Gibson, who played Anita, they are simply a dynamic duo. All of the leads, including Klint Uzuni who played Tony, were also casted to a tee, and their voices really lent to the profundity of the songs.
Although I have always been partial to the Sharks, in this version of West Side Story the Jets definitely held their own. One who especially caught my eye was Nicholas Cunha, who played the fearless leader Riff. His incredible singing voice matched with his dance skills made him one of my favourite characters in the show.
The lead characters are nothing without their supporting cast and here, they did a great job. The choreography was carried out exceptionally well, this combined with all the classic hits we all love from West Side Story made this a stellar show. My personal favourite dances and songs from the show were the Dance at the Gym, America, and Gee, Officer Krupke.
In the second act, the young lady who sang Somewhere absolutely blew my mind. I wish I could have this version on my phone because it was one of the best songs in the entire show. If anything, you should see this musical simply to hear this girl belt her heart out.
Since this musical is a loose adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, the ending is not your typical fairy tale romance. When it ended I was so overcome with emotion, until I got into my car and played the happiest song I could find. Kudos to the cast, crew and band for putting together such a moving show.
This is the first time Brampton Music Theatre has done a co-production with the City of Brampton, and Vandrish says she couldn’t have asked for a better collaboration. This partnership allowed for them to go all in with West Side Story, which has a very dense score and a high demand for singing and dancing. The city definitely picked a good show to support!
Finally, I have to give a shout out to the dancer whose dress strap broke while on stage during the Sunday matinée. Like a true pro she managed to finish her scene without missing a beat.
West Side Story has four more shows so make sure to get your tickets before they’re gone!
One little tip from me to you – West Side Story is a very long production, the first act is just under an hour and a half. Make sure you’ve eaten and have taken care of all those pesky emails before the show starts.
Photos by Bryan McGowan