I’m always most excited about going to the theatre when the show is a house hold name, a theatre classic if you will. Even if you don’t know the plot of the musical, you’ll at least of heard of West Side Story.
With the original production of West Side Story opening in 1957 on Broadway, this half a century (and a bit) old musical has been played out hundreds and probably thousands of times. A tragic romance set in the mid 50’s and taking place in the Upper West Side of New York City and a storyline which is based on THE love story of all time, Romeo & Juliet.
West Side Story tells of the short but (not so very) sweet love affair of Maria and Tony. Maria is the sister of the leader of the “Sharks” street gang leader Bernardo (you have to say that with a definite roll of the tongue, repeat after me… “Berl-narl-do”) and Tony is the one time founder of their rivals the Jets. In theory, the two should hate each other but true to Cupid and his wonky arrow, the couple meet at a local dance and in the midst of the Jets/Sharks dance off, they fall instantly in love. Yay for love.
Oh wait, nay for love.
This romance is doomed from the beginning and when the gangs come to learn of this budding relationship the rivalry becomes even more volatile. As we’ve learnt from Romeo and Juliet, great doomed romances like these usually end in tragedy and West Side Story doesn’t fail to deliver on the tragedy.
It’s reputation preceded this show and the packed theatre were applauding BEFORE the curtain even came up for it to begin – that’s something I’ve not experienced before. I personally wasn’t sure which part of the show to applaud more, the amazingly energetic and perfectly choreographed dance sequences, the singing (in particular America – I’ve been singing that all day), the sharp and brightly coloured costumes…. or the baby oiled biceps of the male cast members.
(I interrupt this serious theatre review to point out that if you’re a hot blooded woman (or male of that persuasion) the opening scene with the Jets and the Sharks is one good reason in itself to watch West Side Story. With a whole load of tank tops, ripped guns, perfectly Brylcreamed quiffs and testosteroney goodness on stage my eyes were well and truly appreciative of the fine physiques of Jack Wilcox, Louis Maskell and Javier Cid and the rest of their gang (I wanna be in their gang, their gang, their… you get the picture). You may think this is just me talking, but even my married friend sat with eyes on stalks and open mouthed.)
Getting back to business, West Side Story is a classic piece of musical theatre which needs to be seen on stage to be appreciated. You’ll dance to “America”, swoon over “I Feel Pretty” and shed a tear or two over the beautiful “Somewhere”.
Note: take tissues, for godsake.
West Side Story is running at the Regent Theatre in Stoke until Saturday 16th November. Tickets are available to buy here online and via the box office.