Review: Darlington Operatic Society – West Side Story

Widely regarded as the “greatest musical of all time”, “West Side Story” redefined the genre of the musical when it premiered on Broadway in 1957.

60 years after its original run, the Darlington Operatic Society brought the passion, emotion, anger and frustrations of New York’s West Side gangland to the Princess Alexandra Auditorium, in yet another fantastic production.

West Side Story is the adaptation of the classic romantic tragedy, “Romeo and Juliet”, with the feuding families becoming two warring New York City gangs – the White Jets, led by Riff (played by Ben Connor), and the Puetro Rican Sharks, led by Bernado (Jason Slater).

When Riff’s best friend Tony (Neil Harland) and Bernardo’s younger sister Maria (Rhiannon Walker) meet at a dance, no one can do anything to stop their love, and, amid the gang wars, the couple begin meeting in secret, with plans to run away.

Having raised the bar following their recent productions of “Hairspray”, “South Pacific” and “Monty Python’s Spamalot”, expectations were high for the Darlington Operatic Society’s latest show, and they certainly delivered, as the society once again established themselves as the region’s best amateur production company.

Neil Harland, who was forced to watch Spamalot from the sidelines after breaking his leg, looked at home on the stage, excellently showcasing his acting and singing abilities in equal measures. Likewise, Ben Connor and Jason Slater also put in fabulous performances, giving their all in their respective roles.

However, it was Rhiannon Walker who particularly stood out. The sheer power in her vocals and her on-stage presence were a delight to watch for the entirety of the show; a definite star in the making.

The cast were accompanied by a 19-piece orchestra (under the guidance of Nigel Ball), whose renditions of the high-energy numbers and slow-moving ballads made for delightful listening.

Despite a few microphone issues in the first act, the vocals from the cast were to an excellent standard, with a wide range on display throughout. Not only did they sound great, but they looked great too, thanks to the brilliant choreography and the well-designed replica costumes.

It seems that whichever musical you throw at the Darlington Operatic Society, they take it in their stride and flourish in bringing it to an audience of their own. The society is made up of a very talented group of people, and the results clearly show. West Side Story is another must-see show.

Darlington Operatic Society’s “West Side Story” is at the Princess Alexandra Auditorium in Yarm until Saturday, April 8th, 2017. Tickets for the show can be purchased from TicketSource or by calling 01325 244659.