Musical theatre season is back with a classic in Dubai
West Side Story: a classic tale of gang rivalry between the Puerto Rican Sharks and the white, working-class Jets. The original 1957 production marked a changing point in American musical theatre with its dark, realistic themes and sophisticated music. Expect star-crossed lovers (it is, after all, based on Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet) when the show hits Centrepoint Theatre at Ductac this week: cast members include seasoned West End professionals alongside talented local performers. We met the key players to get the lowdown.
The leading lady
Elisa Doughty, 38, American A trained soprano, Elisa plays Maria in the Dubai production, and her voice is sure to be the standout performance of the night. Having lived in France for 11 years, she has performed in countless operas there, and has also starred in musicals including My Fair Lady and Sweeney Todd. Her most recent endeavour was a critically acclaimed one-woman jazz cabaret, I Wish You Love.
I am… ‘A “triple threat” – singer, dancer and actor.’
My career highlight was... ‘Singing the role of Frasquita in Carmen at the Stade de France in Paris. There were 70,000 people in the audience and they were all dressed in white so that images for the scenery could be projected onto them. A perfect summer evening.’
My character is... Maria, who has only been in America for a month. She’s an innocent, kind-hearted girl who’s about to have her world turned upside down by Tony, a boy with a different background.
The leading man
Michael Rouse, 33, British Working professionally for 15 years, Michael has played Legolas in the West End production of Lord of the Rings and has sung as a soloist for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. He’ll play Tony in this new production.
I am… ‘A singer, actor and dancer. One of the things I love about my job is the variety of work.’
My career highlight was… ‘Being part of the original cast of Saturday Night Fever at the London Palladium. Not only was the show a hit and lots of fun, but I also met my future wife!’
My character is... ‘Tony, the co-founder of the Jets. After he meets Maria, his life changes completely.’
The local talent
Kate Alexandra Hargreaves, 16, British Kate is one of the Dubai amateurs involved in the show, who have taken time out of their schedule to gain musical theatre experience. Time Out remembers her from last year’s production of Hairspray in which she played Penny Pingleton – hers was the stand-out amateur performance thanks to believable acting and strong singing.
I am… ‘A singer and actor. My weaker skill is dance, although I enjoy it.’
My career highlight was... ‘Performing in Hairspray last year. I was able to gain so much knowledge from the professional co-stars.’
My character is… ‘A feisty young Latina woman named Fransisca. I’m also understudying for the role of Anita (one of the major characters), so that will be another amazing experience!’
Joseph Fowler, 37, British After a successful, ballet career, Joseph turned to directing and choreography, having worked on Singin’ in the Rain in Paris and Montreal and Hairspray in the US and Dubai. He’s also collaborated theatrically with greats such as Luc Besson and Kristin Scott Thomas.
My favourite songs in the show are… ‘“America”, with its contagious Latin rhythms, and “The Jet Song”, which will get anyone’s toes tapping.’
The best dance on the night will be... ‘Choreographer Sarah Miles has had an extensive career choreographing on Broadway and working with artists such as Liza Minnelli, so I know we’re in for a treat. I think the highlight will be the dance in the gym where the two gangs confront each other in an energetic, explosive mambo.’ West Side Story runs from July 19-23 at Ductac, Mall of the Emirates (04 341 4777). Tickets from Dhs135, available at www.timeouttickets.com.
This week the Madinat Theatre will host a performance of Disney’s Camp Rock, a show made famous by the Jonas Brothers. We ask director John Payton and producer Lucy Blakeman about the show.
The most audience-pleasing song? John: ‘“Wouldn’t Change a Thing”, a duet between lead characters Shane Gray and Mitchie Torres.’
The most audience-pleasing dance? John: ‘“It’s On!”, a hip-hop dance-off between the rival camps.’
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Smithy Jul 25, 2011 08:54 am
I have worked on many amateur dramatic performances back in the UK before, and they have always been marketed that way. So in this respect, I agree that ticketing should reflect that. However, on this occasion, this wasn't in fact an entirely amateur production. Everyone involved (apart from the ensemble cast and some principle cast members) was a paid theatre professional. Ticketing needs to cover the cost not only the hire of these professionals, but the rights to the script and score, all technical aspects including set and costumes (the majority of which were made specifically for the huge cast), programme production, the list goes on. Without this, there would be no show. The venue is a Community Theatre and Arts Centre, and needs to make a substantial profit in order to be able to continuously promote and develop emerging talent within the region, and deliver the accolade it deserves.
"...all in they really could have done with an older age range and more training". - Perhaps a little more tact wouldn't hurt, Edward. The ensemble cast were local participants, many of whom are still in school or have jobs. This is not their profession, yet. They are avid performers who each went through the audition process and I'm sure were fairly awarded a part in the production based on their talent and dedication to the production, which was thoroughly rehearsed in 3 weeks. This is longer than similar productions in the UK are often given, so I have to disagree that the cast needed more training.
I'd like to congratulate the cast of West Side Story for their interpretation of the classic musical, it was inspiring to see such talented young individuals perform together here in Dubai. I'll be back to see the next one!
Edward Jul 20, 2011 12:31 pm
I have to say I was very disappointed by this performance. From a community theatre point of view there are a few parents in Dubai that can be very proud of their children’s performances but I'm afraid that's as generous as this review will be. Nowhere did the word amateur feature on any advertising (correct me if I’m wrong) and 135AED for the cheapest seats was frankly ridiculous. Had ticket prices reflected what it was - local talent with a few ‘stars’ from the UK - it would have made for a far more enjoyable event.
The lead parts were good (when not let down by the Sound Engineer), they held their tuning well and delivered some engaging moments, the male lead of Tony in particular. However their supporting actors were weak. It wasn’t terrible, a small boy with slicked back hair in the chorus at times carried the show and a teenage mimic (who could have played a lead role comfortably had it been a fully amateur performance) held attention well, but all in they really could have done with an older age range and more training.
Why the music had to be piped rather than live amazes me, Dubai and Abu Dhabi are full of talented Music teachers who could have put together a far better ensemble than the at times off beat and partially synthed recording that is used.
Having said all that it is wonderful to be able to go to the theatre in Dubai at all, and there should be much more of this sort of production going on rather than have an empty stage for weeks on end which appears to be the case. For that to happen we need to embrace ‘amateur dramatics’ for what it is, a collection of people who enjoy putting on a show...but ticket prices should reflect that!