Social delinquents, racial abuse and gang violence… so not much has changed since the conception of West Side Story, now showing at the Festival theatre as part of its 50th anniversary production. Arthur Laurents’ story tells us of a society that claimed to be “sick in the head”, so it is no wonder that the show still stands today as a musical classic with the film becoming iconic viewing for families at Christmas.
We are thrown in to the world of 1950s New York where the all American Jets battle it out with Puerto Rican immigrants, The Sharks. Amid the conflict Tony (Daniel Koek) and Maria (Sofia Escobar) engage in a whirlwind romance which defies the boundaries of the culture divide in true Romeo and Juliet style. When “the rumble” between the two tribes commences their world is destroyed and for Maria, life in America starts to become a little bit tricky.
The dialogue became slightly jolted and the characters became hard to empathise with.
With a simplistic set by Paul Gallis including projected backdrop and generic NY apartment scaffolding the performances are left to speak for themselves. Leonard Bernstein’s music proves its timeless quality as the cast dance their way through the instantly recognisable classics including “America”, “I Feel Pretty” and “Tonight.” The choreography is truly stunning but it provokes the question whether the cast were merely chosen for their dance ability. The dialogue became slightly jolted and the characters became hard to empathise with, losing some of the emotional involvement needed for such a piece. Koek’s performance started off in a shaky manner but he redeemed himself with an outstanding rendition of Maria, while the girl herself came across slightly whiny but with an incredible vocal range. The performance of the night came from Jayde Westaby, a true all-rounder, whose portrayal of Anita was emotionally engaging. The tragedy that unravels throughout the piece is disgustingly in line with modern society, racism has increased since 9/11, knife crime has become a focal point in Britain and the must have accessory on the streets is an electronic tag. But disguised with some catchy tunes and comic timing, West Side Story becomes just another night of entertainment for the masses. In all fairness, if our NEDs burst into song and dance in the street then maybe the world would be a better place but until then we should maybe concentrate more on our own story before we get to the last chapter and realise it’s too late to change. (Jennifer Gould)
Until Sar 16 May,
See festival theatre website for more details