The highly anticipated fiftieth anniversary production of Bernstein's classic, West Side Story has arrived in Birmingham and with a three week residency at the New Alexandra Theatre, there are few excuses to miss this legendary classic.
Romeo and Juliet are no longer in Verona, it's 1950's New York and amidst the ill-fated love story for Tony and Maria, their families the Jets and Sharks clash over status. The predictable story is well known and I wouldn't say that it's for this that the people come... Fifty years on, the iconic music of Leonard Bernstein is still as exciting and fresh-feeling as a first night. The music, coupled with Joey McKneely's reproduction of Jerome Robbins' choreography is something very special, the two combine to create a visually stunning production. With little in the way of set it's all about Renate Schmitzer's colourful costumes worn by an incredibly versatile, dynamic and endlessly energetic young cast.
Louis Maskell is charming as Tony, who's impeccably controlled vocal brings the audience into awe , particuarly during the song Maria, an obvious highlight. Owing to the indisposition of Katie Hall, the role of Maria is played by Charlotte Baptie. Having seen both girls in the role, it is apparent they are of equal worthiness. Baptie impresses with a belting soprano voice, championing her way through classics such as Tonight and I Feel Pretty. The girls, led by Djalenga Scott as Anita are sensationally sexy, sassy and fun addition to the otherwise dark plot.
The show perhaps belongs to the brilliant boys, rival gangs who fight through dance - adventurous yet extremely well connected, an incredibly talented line-up. Whilst the stylised flighting is not the most realistic, the artistic values completely outweigh anything else here. However, it is when the entire company unite for the Procession and Nightmare that the spine tingles.
West Side Story is all about the dance, incredible vocal performances do break through the booming score but ultimately the re-invented, high energy routines are what will stick with you. And a warning, you will walk away whistling and humming the songs for a long while after!
See West Side Story until 19 April at the New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham. Click here for tickets. Read my interview with Katie Hall and Louis Maskell here.
Photos by Alastair Muir.
View the trailer:
Cast List: Louis Maskell, Katie Hall, Djalenga Scott, Javier Cid, Jack Wilcox, David Delve, Jason Griffiths, Siôn Tudor Owen, Matthew Hawksley, Fraser Fraser, Bruce Aguilar Rohan. Samuel Salter, Scott Rayner, Matthew Croke, Charlie Cameron, Rachel Crocker, Fenia Tsikitikou, Rachel Ensor, Danielle Cato, Niko Wirachman, Sergio Giacomelli, Sergi Terns, Devon McKenzie-Smith, Nathan Ryles, Liam Paul Jennings, Sinead Kenny, Charlotte Baptie, Katie Singh, Challyce Brogdon, Nicola Coates, Lisa Dent, Dom Hodson, Alex Pinder.