Skip to main content

Review of West Side Story at The Lighthouse Theatre, Kettering

Following an interesting journey, myself, Keith, Karl, Tarquin and three ladies (it was clearly a big car) arrived at Kettering to see the Theats production of the classic musical West Side Story. This was a number of firsts for me, with my first visit to The Lighthouse Theatre, the first time I had seen theatre group Theats and my first viewing of West Side Story.

Despite never having seen the classic musical before, I was overwhelmingly familiar with it through both the exceptional songs that come from it and the original Bard source. It is an extremely challenging show to stage I imagine with both the tasking songs and the famous dance routines that have cast its place in history.

For the most part, the amateur group Theats takes this challenge and wins, primarily with its casting of the two iconic leads Maria and Tony, in these roles Lauren Jones and Daniel Fortune form an exceptional partnership on stage and performing both their solos and duets with a confident ease. Lauren particularly (who I have seen once before in A Tired Heart & The Big C) has an amazing stage precense that belies her age and is assured of future success.

Another performer that I have seen before (a few times actually) and one who has never been a letdown is Susie Pack, who here provides a likeable, but equally perfectly troubled performance as Anita. Strong on stage (what slip?) and once again effortlessly holding the tunes. From the others, I felt Kevin Maltby was the strongest of the gangs as Action, and Carly Walker was huge fun as Anybodys.

Less successful and rather disappointingly are the Jets and the Sharks scenes, so key to the pace and drive of the story, these really end up playing rather pedestrian. The opening scene sucks the life out of the show at the very beginning, taking an age it seems to get going. Likewise, the first bar scene brings the whole show to a grinding halt as well with its slow pace, all making the first act really slow at times, and at 90 minutes, that's not what you really want. It is a shame as there are some great characters developed within by the cast, but the drama and aggression of the words rarely offer the true buildup to events. Many of the fight scenes though when they do occur are generally well staged, however, just getting to them is a bind.

There were also, unfortunately, a few technical issues going on, with occasional dodgy mics, or sometimes not even on, leaving some dialogue lost, especially when the music underscore is at work. It has to be said that the lighting also runs a gamut of being both brilliant and very poor on occasion with the switching of the green/red both working and occasionally clearly not and being very evident with the latter. Also, note to stage crew changing scenes, don't look at the audience, you know who you are.

There appears to be a lot of negatives going on here, which might suggest that I didn't enjoy the show. However, this isn't true. As already mentioned, the two leads bring so much to the show that it is never going to disappoint. Likewise, the effort of the whole cast makes the show special enough in itself. I take my joy from the little moments sometimes that I see on stage, like in the first act scene where a flower having fallen off a performer is neatly retrieved by their onstage partner, and then brilliantly brought into the character with a playful stage left moment with that partner. Moments like this show how performers get their character and these ancillary moments I love often more than where the eye is meant to be because it creates the whole picture and therefore world of the show.

At the end of the evening, it is clear that Theats have done well with a challenging show and while there are some issues and disappointment, both I and the absolutely packed audience simply loved it.

Performance reviewed: Friday 13th October 2017 at the Lighthouse Theatre, Kettering.

West Side Story by Theats ran at the Lighthouse Theatre between Wednesday 11th and Saturday 14th October, 2017. Details of Theats can be found at http://www.theats.co.uk/

For details about The Lighthouse see their website at 
https://lighthousetheatre.co.uk/

Popular posts from this blog

Review of Bugsy Malone (Clyde Company) at The Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

Last night I was back at Royal & Derngate to see the Youth Theatre/Young Company production of Bugsy Malone, this time seeing the almost completely different cast of Clyde Company. This second evening of the show had the fortune of running much smoother, with less of the technical issues that had beset the previous evening and restricted the success of some of the scenes.

It was most apparent in the Fat Sam's Grand Slam scene, which became a greater hive of activity, with a full dance routine taking place, which unfortunately hadn't happened the previous night. Leading this scene was a full-on performance from Morgan Charles as Tullulah, exhibiting the vocal talent, and most especially the dance skills she had shown in last years Fame.

In the lead for this second company, and taking a much different approach to the role, was Nathan Stroud. Here we had a more mature Bugsy, not just in age, but in personality. The slightly more serious style worked excellently alongside a st…

Review of Planet Circus OMG! 2016 at Billing Aquadrome, Northampton

An unexpected call from a friend who had received a free ticket, à la Willy Wonka's Golden Ticket, to go and see a circus for free, left me sitting in a circus tent a few hours later for the first time in about thirty years.


It was a wise, albeit on occasion, scary decision. I have to confess that when seeing shows like this, where there is an element of danger involved I do tend to squirm into the chair I sit. This happened mostly during the opening act of the second half of the show, the suitably titled Wheel Of Death. I rolled into an uncomfortable ball, while the five or six year old behind me gleefully shouted that "they are going to die!".


This was a scary welcome to the second act, after the first much more relaxing first half. It works excellently and is credit to producer and director Mark Whitney that the show is perfectly balanced, with the bulk of traditional circus arts in the first half, while the more spectacular and often more modern feeling ones are in …

Review of The Crucible at Royal & Derngate (Underground), Northampton

A few weeks ago I headed down to London to see this years graduating University of Northampton BA Actors perform Arthur Miller's classic The Crucible, and while it was generally spotlessly performed, as expected, the staging of it was tremendously dull, offering little stimulation beyond just the words being said. It made a classic, quite dull as a result. There was no such issue with The Actors Company production, staged in the atmospheric Underground space, and directed with such style and flair by Fay Lomas, to make Miller's play unrecognisable from that London version.

Based around the Salem Witch Trials in Massachusetts, Reverend Parris (a tough uncompromising performance from Steve While) comes across a group of girls dancing in the forest. When one of the girls, Betty (Laura Green), falls into a coma, events spiral out of control for many of the residents of the town, as accusations fly. Soon, Judge Danforth (Sue Whyte) is on the scene, and the lives of the residents a…