“I want to be in America, Everything’s good in America.” Sondheim’s lyrics seem to give a greater hint of irony now than when first written. Not only has the American Dream turned into the rest of the world’s nightmare but the musicals being churned out on Broadway are also deteriorating. A vibrant musical scene that the world once looked at for artistic inspiration has resorted to such recent pap as Legally Blonde the Musical, so it’s refreshing that West Side Story is touring again and giving two fingers up to its successors.
With music from Leonard Bernstein and lyrics from a fresh faced Stephen Sondheim we witness a Romeo and Juliet parallel unfolding. Instead this time it’s the all singing, all dancing Sharks VS Jets as they go head to head amid the backdrop of 1950s New York. American Tony and Puerto-Rican Maria take the lead as they defy the culture divide despite the inevitable prejudice from their family and peers.
It’s refreshing that West Side Story is touring again and giving two fingers up to its successors.
For a musical produced in 1957 the show takes a risk in tackling these social issues head on and its relevance has grown stronger in recent years as intercultural relations has become a political talking point. The politics and tragedy are woven amongst such classic songs such as ‘Tonight’ and ‘Maria’ which have been sung to death at auditions up and down the country but can’t quite cut it unless it’s in the context of the production. The show has great scope in terms of choreography and this version looks to be a true spectacle. In a time when musicals have been given the Lloyd Webber treatment (i.e. had the soul sucked out of them) it is encouraging that the classics are back to show us how it should be done. This is one musical that doesn’t need celebrity names to rake in the punters, the reputation speaks for itself and it should probably be viewed before making any generalisations about the musical genre.
Showing: Tue 5 May until Sat 16 May @ Festival Theatre Edinburgh