Youth Music Theatre Scotland return for another successful year at the Fringe, this time with a remarkably professional and well-executed production of West Side Story, perhaps the most challenging but rewarding musical of them all.
It’s remarkable that such a young group even chose to try it. Pulling it off with such confidence signals that Youth Music Theatre Scotland continue to do things right.
Leonard Bernstein’s complex score is a problem for any orchestra. Rhythmically very difficult, it takes real skill and an excellent conductor to pull it off. This young ensemble was almost universally excellent, with a particularly sharp and accurate percussion section.
With a cast this skilled at such a young age it is impossible not to see them as professionals in just a few years. It really is amazing the level of training these young people are at, with several of them already extremely proficient in several disciplines. You can spot the specialist singers, dancers and actors but everyone seems to be very good at everything that Musical Theatre involves. Robert Forrest as Tony and Katherine Skene as Maria are both obviously classically trained singers. Their famous duets are universally excellent. Skene has a particularly fine voice: bell-clear and musically intelligent. It’s obvious that both of them will spend much of their lives onstage.
Hannah Visocchi’s Anita is also excellent. Fiery and full of wit, Visocchi gives her the strength needed to fulfil her character’s force in the story and on the stage. She steals most of the scenes that she’s in.
The direction and set design are of a professional standard, as is the tricky choreography. With the rhythms in Bernstein’s score so important to West Side Story’s success, the dancing really has to work and this cast are well-trained and confident in their ability to perform whilst executing difficult routines.
It normally takes a professional outfit to put on a production of West Side Story. Its complexities mean that it takes a huge amount of skill to make it work. It’s remarkable that such a young group even chose to try it. Pulling it off with such confidence signals that Youth Music Theatre Scotland continue to do things right. Watch out for them in years to come.