Published on April 12, 2019

WEST SIDE STORY– One of the most cherished Broadway hits of all time is back in Melbourne!

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Hailed as the “No.1 Greatest musical of all time” by The Times (UK), WEST SIDE STORY, has returned to Melbourne and is now playing at the Arts Centre for a strictly limited season.

A modern retelling of Romeo and Juliet, WEST SIDE STORY is set in a New York City enveloped by bitter tension between two teenage gangs: the Jets, self-styled “Americans” (Montagues), and the Sharks, a group of young Puerto Ricans (Capulets) and remains as important and relevant today as it was when it was first created.

When the original Broadway production of WEST SIDE STORY opened in 1957, musical theatre changed forever. The genius of its four creators, a remarkable collaboration between composer Leonard Bernstein, author Arthur Laurents, lyricist Stephen Sondheim and choreographer Jerome Robbins, produced a timeless masterpiece whose thrilling unity of music, dance, book and lyrics has been rarely matched since.

For those who are familiar with Shakespeare’s classic play, you will not be surprised that WEST SIDE STORY packs some serious tragic punch. Whilst there are some contrasting moments of fun and humour, the show is very much a tragedy and as such, expect to be moved by the events that transpire.

The show is known, particularly for Jerome Robbins’ fierce and energetic choreography that captured the spirit of the rebellious youth gangs on the streets and multi-award-winning Director/Choreographer Joey McKneely has done a fine job paying homage to this in this revival. The dancing was a clear stand-out in the performance. The energy and synchronicity from the cast was sublime and truly highlighted how dance can be a vehicle for storytelling, eliminating the need for dialogue and singing.

The 31-piece orchestra conducted by the vibrant Donald Chan were incredibly tight and brought Bernstein’s score to life.

The young-cast, led by Todd Jacobsson (Book Of Mormon) and Sophie Salvesani in the roles of Tony and Maria did an admirable job. A show that demands so much of the actors in terms of dance, can result in concessions being made to the capability of singing and acting, however; across the board, the cast did well. Chloe Zuel (Beautiful) as Anita was a clear stand-out. Her performance across the board was very strong and incredibly moving for the audience.

The costumes were very effective in differentiating the rival gangs where race could not. The lighting was dramatic and set the mood well for the contrasting dances that ranged from classic musical theatre to ballet. The monochrome set and backdrop really enhanced the setting of late 50’s New York City with some clever changes and great use of levels.

This musical is not for the faint of heart. If you like thrilling action, raw emotion and high-octane performances that pack a punch, then this is the show for you.


By Michael Kent

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