Darrel Nitschke is set to director Tauranga Musical Theatre’s ‘West Side Story’

26 March 2021


Tauranga Musical Theatre is bringing the story of the vicious rivalry of teenage gangs to life, Bayofplenty.live got to chat with director Darrel Nitschke about their take on ‘West Side Story.’

Set in 1950s New York, ‘West Side Story’ is inspired by Shakespeare’s tumultuous love story ‘Romeo and Juliet’. 

The ground-breaking choreography and unforgettable score changed the face of musical theatre forever when it burst onto the Broadway stage in 1957. 

From Broadway to Tauranga, this show is being directed by Darrel Nitschke, who only in October last year was wrapping up her arts degree in Wellington. 

How did you become onboard with this production and how are you finding it so far? 

Darrel Nitschke: In October, I was wrapping up my arts degree at Victoria and had somehow managed to specialise in directing by my final year. I saw a Facebook post from Tauranga Musical Theatre, calling for a creative team that could bring the West Side Story musical to life. I left my flat, took a seat at the campus bar and didn’t leave until my application was finished. I later had a FaceTime call with a couple of TMT’s wonderful committee members and was stupidly excited to talk more about the show and its potential. The experience has been more rewarding and insightful than I could’ve imagined. While working on vocals and choreography is very exciting, our discussions of character and social circumstances have broadened each of our own reasons for being involved in this project. The cast are all realising the importance of the story that we are telling and it is a magical process to watch unfold. 

You’ve acted in productions and been part of the theatre for years, how different is it now that you have taken on the director's role? 

DN: Performing alongside a group of like-minded people is always fun, but there is something about directing that genuinely sets my soul on fire. It is a chance to exercise a whole new skill set. I love the responsibility of knowing a script inside and out, so much so that I can teach others and motivate them to think beyond what is on the page. Directing forces an understanding on every production element and it is such a joy to be growing my knowledge amongst such a supportive team. 

What is it about doing something like this that you enjoy and what makes you keep coming back for more? 

DN: He tangata, he tangata, he tangata. The members of our ‘West Side Story’ team make every issue and inch of progress worthwhile. We have been blessed with a cast and crew that are passionate and hardworking and all bear a collective vision for what we are trying to share with our audiences. 

For those who don’t know what ‘West Side Story’ is about, how would you explain it to them? 

DN: The show debuted on Broadway in 1957 so it’s always good to have a wee refresher! ‘West Side Story’ is a modernised adaptation of Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’, wherein the feud between two gangs (the New York Jets and the Puerto Rican Sharks) drives the events of the story. This rivalry is further complicated by a star-crossed love between Tony and Maria who belong to opposing sides. Audiences are invited to tag along as these characters decide what is most important to them: their family and where they come from, or their love for one another. 

How many people do you have running the show behind the scenes and how long has this show been in the works? 

DN: We have a cast of twenty-five and our technical team continues to grow in size. We are fortunate to have the help of some very experienced TMT members in developing our lighting, sound design and much more. Our core creative team consists of myself and three of the most brilliant women I have ever met to lead choreography, vocal work and production management. We had our first meeting in November and have been planning ever since. 

Without too many spoilers, what scene or act are you most excited for people to see and why? 

DN: From the get-go, we wanted this show to serve as a celebration of live theatre, especially during the COVID era, in which several communities have had to press pause on their live projects. We are incredibly grateful to continue creating live theatre in Tauranga and want to make the most for performers and audiences alike. With that in mind, I am very excited for audiences to see the ‘dance at the gym’ scene. You’ll know exactly what I mean in a few weeks time. 

23 April - 8 May 2021
Westside Theatre

Tickets: taurangamusicaltheatre.co.nz

Word by Caitlin Houghton
Image: Supplied