Monday 8 February 2016

West Side Story 2016

Last week was the week of my school’s production of West Side Story. The Puerto Rican Sharks and New Yorker Jets barged into the school hall ready to fight it out and ready to burst into song at any given moment. The Shark girls has colourful dresses and red lipstick and the Jets were clad in in blue jeans.

Credit to Sam Kemp

When I found out that we were going to be doing West Side Story last summer, I was quite skeptical about how it would turn out. It’s notoriously difficult in practically every aspect: singing, dancing, acting, the score itself, which I would be playing. And that’s probably what made me shrink away from it in the beginning. 

As we began rehearsals it became pretty clear to me that I hated the music. I simply couldn’t play it - or, at least, that’s what I told myself. The score was as difficult as I thought it would be. We worked and rehearsed since September in order to get it up to standard for February, because there can be no good show if the pit band is no good.

Those first few months of rehearsals seemed endless and I felt like I was making no progress. But in the few weeks leading up to the show, something felt different. I could hear and feel myself improving. I began to enjoy the music. I began to like it.

The weekend before the show I was in school from 9:30am - 5pm on both Saturday and Sunday. On the first day the band practised in the pit for the first time. Then, in the afternoon, the leads joined us (or everyone who takes part in one of the songs anyway). Then on the Sunday all of the cast came in to rehearse with us and we did a run through of the first half of the show.

That weekend honestly left me knackered. I had concentrated and stayed in the same seat for hours on end. But I could hear that what I was playing had improved, and that made me really happy.

On the Monday we had a full day of rehearsals again. This time we were off timetable and finished at 3pm to go with the usual school times. 

On the Tuesday we had a dress rehearsal that was performed to our local primary schools. It was so good to play the full show and know that someone was actually watching it. It was also the first time I had ‘seen’ the show. 

Credit to Sam Kemp

Then we had 4 ticketed shows that were open to the public. 4 amazing shows that got better and better each time. Everyone who contributed to the show did outstandingly. The actors were believable and brilliant, the dancers looked beautiful and the singers were just fantastic. I don’t think the pit band was too bad either.

Credit to Sam Kemp

From hating a show (or rather, its music) to loving it; from insecurities about my playing to confidence in the fact that we actually sounded quite good. From sectional rehearsals with just a few players, to performing as a company in front of a full audience. From first getting my part of the score to crying on closing night before the show had even finished. 

West Side Story has been a great experience. It challenged everyone to achieve something that we didn’t think we could, or I didn’t, at least. I played something for 5 shows that really scared and felt daunting to me just a few months ago. I spent more time with people that I probably wouldn’t have spent much time with otherwise. I improved my own playing, listen to others improve theirs and had the best time!

Credit to Sam Kemp

If you ever get chance to be involved in a production, big or small, take that chance because I guarantee that you won’t regret it. 

Thank you to everyone who has made this past week so good. Everyone from the people on stage to the teachers who supported us, the others in the pit band who made me smile and laugh every rehearsal, the techy people, the audience and my family, who were supportive even when I had my doubts about the show.

West Side Story everyone. It’s been a blast. Well done guys - we completely smashed it. 

Credit to Sam Kemp

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