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Mazenod and Avila Musical

4 June 2014

 WEST SIDE STORY

 

We hope you did not miss this year’s musical which was presented in Alexander Theatre at Monash last week. It was certainly well received by those who attended. West Side Story is a very different and difficult musical. It is regarded as a ‘landmark’ musical. It is a tragi- drama (the first of its kind) with deaths at the end of Act 1 and 2 rather than a musical comedy with a nice happy ending. The music is vibrant and challenging, the dancing is energetic and can be quite demanding, the storyline based on the Romeo and Juliet theme is dramatic and quite tragic. While the musical is somewhat old (first produced on Broadway in 1957) the story still has relevance today. It became quite famous because of the movie which starred Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer and won 10 Academy Awards.

 

When presenting a musical the aim is to create an entertaining spectacle which the audience can see, hear and enjoy. This year we went to the lower West Side of New York where rival teenage gangs displayed their anger, their intolerance, their aggression, but eventually after some violence, their acceptance of each other. The costumes and sets added to the colour and splendour and certainly helped to set the scene. The music, the dance and the stage movement enhanced the spectacle and were well-rehearsed over many hours and presented with great enthusiasm and expertise by all involved. There were 60 in the cast and there were some great chorus numbers which required both singing and dancing (The Jet Song, America, Cool, I Feel Pretty, Gee Officer Krupke). Then there was the long sequence of 4 dances at the Gym, the dream sequence in the Somewhere Ballet and the singing of the Tonight Ensemble, all of which involved most of the cast being part of the staging. These were probably the most entertaining parts of the musical but were the most difficult to organise. Can you imagine organising about 60 teenagers (many with no ‘real’ dance training) to all do the same thing together in a confined space on a stage and then get them to sing at the same time? Yes and they did it so well! They made a spectacular contribution to the overall production of this musical. The singing and the presentation by the principals was also a highlight of this musical (Tonight, Maria, A Boy Like That, One Hand One Heart, Something’s Coming, I Have a Love, Somewhere) and a great challenge for those given that opportunity. There were some touching moments, some very dramatic moments, some humour in some of the dialogue and these were presented by the principals with poise and good ‘dramatic’ timing. There was also some ‘fighting’ which the boys enjoyed staging.

Our presentation of this musical was enthusiastically received by the four near-full houses that saw it. It was another outstanding success. If you were there, you know that the students presented an excellent production of West Side Story. I know the students are very proud of their achievement and deservedly so. If one of them belongs to you, you should be very proud of them; I certainly am, particularly because they worked hard, they were committed and enthusiastic and because they did achieve such a high standard. They certainly deserved all the praise they received. Yes, a number of adults (teaching staff from Mazenod and Avila, office and maintenance staff, parents, past Mazenod and Avila students) were involved in the overall presentation of the musical and provided some excellent leadership and expertise but the students on the stage, backstage, in the band and in costumes accepted the challenges set for them and were very important contributors to the spectacle presented in this musical. It is really great to see what young people can achieve when they are given the opportunity. When they are given some encouragement and direction and when they accept the challenge they will generally perform well above your best expectations. Given this year’s challenge, their talents, energy and enthusiasm were well worth seeing. For me it was very pleasing to see the joy, satisfaction and pride on so many faces.

The tradition of great musicals continues and this year’s students have done their part in building on this tradition. Some are saying again it was the best ever, but they said that last year. This time ‘they’ might even be right. I can say that the Wednesday night was probably the best opening night ever. Considering everything, it was an excellent production, an extremely entertaining spectacle and an extremely valuable learning experience for all those involved. To everyone who contributed in any way to this year’s production of West Side Story, we hope you feel rewarded for your involvement and efforts. Congratulations to everyone for your hard work and enthusiasm and we hope to see many of you involved again next year.

Ken Nailon – Director

 

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