Sixty years is a long time for any love affair but that is what I have had with Bernstein’s wonderfully ageless musical WEST SIDE STORY, says Ralph McAllister.
‘Ever since 1957/58 when the show opened on Broadway and then London, audiences have received this poignant,boisterous,daring ,reworking of Romeo and Juliet ,with acclaim.
Bernstein’s music, with numbers like Tonight,Something’s Coming,Cool, and America are examples of the risks taken at the time, to drive the plot development through the songs.
Unheard of then.
Dance boundaries pushed to new heights
Jerome Robbins brilliant choreography pushed the boundaries of dance to breathtaking new heights.
And Stephen Sondheim at 25 indicated, with his lyrics , where he might be going.
Though nobody would have predicted Follies, Sweeney Todd, Into the Woods and many others composed by him lay ahead.
Even though today he still squirms at the words he wrote for I Feel Pretty,one of the show’s biggest hits.
Revivals of West Side Story are worldwide and Wellington now has the chance to check the show’s credentials with this Opera Australia’s no expenses spared production.
Director /choreographer Joey McKneely has vast experience with revivals of the show.
He has assembled a young ,predominantly Australian cast of huge talent ,who more than do justice to the challenges of the dancing ,singing and acting which the show demands.
Rebels with a cause are everywhere and both the Jets and the Sharks are having a ball.
Another major contributor to the success is Donald Chan the musical supervisor who elicits magnificent sounds from Orchestra Wellington of the score.
If you want a political justification for seeing the show, remember that the Sharks are, by and large, from Puerto Rico so their love/hate relationship with America has an added edge of biting relevance in our modern times.
But essentially ,this is a show about passion, about forgiveness, about laughter, about love.
“When love comes so strong
There is no right or wrong
Your love is your life”
sing Anita and Maria near the end of this magical and desperately moving journey.
If, like most of us these days, you work on a limited entertainment budget, make this your choice of the year.
Enchantment for a 15-year-old niece
My fifteen-year-old niece was glowing with pleasure and excitement both during and after her first meeting with West Side Story.
She wrote to me this morning.
“I have never seen anything like West Side story.
The singing dancing and acting all had a wonderful contrast and worked hand in hand with each other.
It was a very enjoyable performance and definitely something I would watch again.”
As for me this remains one of the three best musicals of all time.
And with this production the affair continues.