West Side Story – still wows after 50 years

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Musical magic on tour

“I saw this at the cinema in Norway in 1962. They went mad for it!’ said a more mature member of the audience at West Side Story at the Sunderland Empire on Friday night. It is a mark of its genius that the Bernstein score and Sondheim lyrics and story of star crossed lovers has never lost its power to move and entertain after all these years. Always one of the most difficult musicals to do justice to technically, this touring production is slick and colourful with very strong performances – especially from the girls, Maria and Anita – aka Katie Hall and Djalenga Scott.

West Side Story Tickets at ,
America is where it’s at for these gals.

Katie has been in Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables and Djalenga  cut her teeth on Flashdance (you need a lot of stamina for that one) Chicago and The Rocky Horror Show. We didn’t have the main lead for Tony (Dom Johnson was standing in for Louis Maskell on Friday night) and while his voice was perfect we girls did not find him tall or handsome enough to have fallen in love at first sight with across a crowded room. Fickle I know, but if you don’t cast the main roles just right it always lacks that little bit of something. It was the same when we went to see Dirty Dancing and the Patrick Swayze role was played by a very competent, tall dancer but he was just, well a little bit wet. I’ll stop going on about that now.

It was all white on the night

The choreography by Jerome Robbins was outstanding and real highlights were the America number, Officer Krupke and anything where there was a bit of a rumble going on. Riff (Jack Wilcox) was very good and got the street gang tone just right, although Bernardo was more ballet boy than Bronx bruiser. The story, which covers love, prejudice, juvenile delinquency, corruption, murder, forgiveness, race and tribal rivalry is as relevant today as it ever was and the clever lyrics still have a contemporary ring even after fifty years of performance.

Officer Krupke and his truncheon

A verse from Officer Krupke goes:
My father is a bastard,
My ma’s an S.O.B.
My grandpa’s always plastered,
My grandma pushes tea.
My sister wears a mustache,
My brother wears a dress.
Goodness gracious, that’s why I’m a mess!

The boys done good

It is certainly a very competent show with high production values and a young enthusiastic cast who give it their all. If you want a cast iron, guaranteed good night at the theatre, then get the chocolate eclairs in and head over to watch this West Side Story.
At the Sunderland Empire until 12th October.