Saturday, 7 September 2013

West Side Story

West Side Story, Sadler's Wells - reviewed on 6th September
Photo: Nilz Bohme
For my companion, the political incorrectness of West Side Story, with its racial and gender stereotypes, proved to be a major stumbling block to enjoyment. But I took the show at face value and found this production by Joey McKneely, currently showing at Sadler's Wells, to be a real delight.

Photo: Nilz Bohme
Originally created in 1957, West Side Story doesn't feel dated. Taking inspiration from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, it follows the love between Tony and Maria, who belong to rival New York gangs. It has fabulous music by Leonard Bernstein - a stunning array of vibrant and catchy tunes from 'I feel pretty' to 'Tonight' and 'Maria' - as well as Jerome Robbins's stunning choreography, which is fresh, modern and has particularly wonderful energy in the group dances.

Most importantly, however, is the contemporary relevance of the storyline. As numerous gangs battle for superiority on the streets of cities across the world, with violence, rape and many other horrific methods used for intimidation, the narrative of West Side Story is as poignant as ever. Many aspects of the musical are moving - the lead characters' love has a naïve charm to it, the social rejection felt by the young teens reflects every adolescent's struggle for acceptance, and the tragic and sudden ending brought a tear to my eye (and many other members of the audience too).

A well-rehearsed and talented cast, especially Jessica Soza (Maria), Anthony Festa (Tony) and Penelope Armstead-Williams (Anita), did justice to the superb music, choreography and story. West Side is only at Sadler's Wells until 22 September and it's more or less sold out, but if you can get a ticket, I highly recommend you go.

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