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N E W S L E T T E R

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N E W S L E T T E R

West Side Story | Modern Language Trips | Country Pursuits

Court Games at Radley 1980-2007 | Romania | Radleians


west side

story

Sir Tim Rice, member of Radley’s Council but more pertinently Oscar-winning

lyricist and veteran of 40 years of musical theatre, wrote to the Warden in

the heady aftermath that Radley’s West Side Story production, late November

2007, was ‘one of the best school shows I have seen, anywhere, if not the best’.

He spoke for nearly 1800 people who filled the New Theatre on five successive

nights; many who queued were disappointed while some managed to sneak in

to reprise the showstoppers, ‘Officer Krupke’, ‘Cool’, and ‘I Feel Pretty’.

Director Robert Lowe planned this

production with the military precision of

the D- Day landings; rehearsals started

back in March 2007, a term was devoted

to bringing the musical numbers to

concert pitch and then in the last three

months the choreography and direction

came to the fore. The result was a

level of control and synchronisation,

of team work and of sheer verve and

attack which quite swept the audience

away. The Director had wanted the raw,

dangerous aggression of gang rivalry to

echo the feral state of parts of Britain’s

cities in 2007, but the look of the set

and of the costume was authentic Bronx

circa 1955. The set was magnificent and

the lighting and costume reflected the

shift from exhilaration to despair. In the

central operatic number of the show,

‘Tonight’ the gangs were blocked almost

architecturally, each singing their own

theme, each dressed and lit differently

to emphasise deep mutual, simmering

antipathy. This and the Rumble, where

the Jets, led by Riff (Theo Whitworth,

Aldro, C Social) fought the Puerto Rican

Sharks led by Bernardo (Fred Rowe,

Cothill, A Social) formed a rousing

climax to the act. In this, as in ‘Cool’,

and ‘Officer Krupke’ the choreography

was excellent, youthful exuberance and

athleticism structured and channelled

into complex movement.

The Puerto Rican girls were drawn

from all over Oxfordshire. Anita (Natalie

Batten), full of fiery Latin energy

delivered ‘America’ – with other female

Sharks – with brassy flamboyance and

the noise and colour created a high

point of the show. But for all that this

show is about gangs, about mateship

and brotherhood, the centrepiece is the

love of Maria (Nonie Cockburn) and

Tony (Alex Rose, Thomas’s, C Social).

Their singing was by turns sensitive

and powerful, and together they stilled

a theatre deeply affected by the tragic

consequence of hoodlum armed conflicts.

Challenged to master a fiendishly

difficult score, the singers on stage

and the orchestral players, did

tremendously well; the band consisted

of boys and their teachers and created

that authentic Bernstein jazz sound.

One of the most striking features was

that 6 out of the 10 school prefects

took roles in West Side Story; for

example the Senior Prefect, Will

Summerlin (Caldicott, F Social) was

a Jet and starred in Officer Krupke.

Alex Rose, head of C Social, sang and

acted beautifully – he is also a member

of the 1st VIII. Prominent in the

orchestra was Rory van Zwanenberg

(Mousford, G Social), Head of G Social

and key member of the 1st XV. So,

Radleians multi-task!

The New Theatre proved once

again to be an inspiring venue, its foyer

capable of hosting an audience of 400 for

interval refreshments, and the theatre

seating them in real comfort. This

production tested the new lighting and

sound rigs to the full and the technical

professionalism of boys like Peter Barker

(Aldro, D Social), under the direction

of the full time Theatre Manager Matt

Barker, was an important ingredient in

the show.

West Side Story set wholly new

expectations of drama at Radley and

the buzz created by the show spilled

over into all aspects of the school. In

a place renowned for its outstanding

team sports results, this was the most

successful team game of the term.

2 THE RADLEIAN NEWSLETTER

THE RADLEIAN NEWSLETTER

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