Seen: 19 July 2015
Theatre: State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne
Cast: Anna O’Byrne, Gareth Keegan, Deone Zanotto, Adam Fiorentino, Sean Mulligan, Neil Melville, Tony Rickards, Glaston Toft, Rob Tripoline, Dean Vince
Rating: 9 / 10
Inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story is set on New York’s Upper West Side in the mid-1950s where racial and social tensions run high. A poignant, provocative and emotionally powerful piece of theatre, its score features many of legendary composer Leonard Bernstein’s most famous compositions – Maria, America, Somewhere and Tonight.
Review (warning spoilers)
An amazing show, with a great story and strong fun songs (there are 19 songs over the 2.5 hour performance) with a sad tragic end that I got to experience with my sister Kara as part of her birthday present.
The story starts with the Jets looking to protect their turf from the Sharks recent immigrants from Puerto Rico. The Jets have been running the West Side of New York for years and were founded by Riff (Sean Mulligan) and Tony (Gareth Keegan). Tony has drifted away from the gang and feels something major is awaiting for him. That turns out to be Maria (Anna O’Byrne) the sister of Bernardo the leader of the Sharks.
The young couple meet without realising their links to the different gangs and obviously both sides don’t want the romance to go ahead without the possible exception of Anita (Deone Zanotto – Bernardo’s girlfriend). Both Maria and Tony damn the consequences and pursue a relationship as the two gangs intensify their struggle for dominance. Tony is caught between his gang and the love he has for Maria who doesn’t want these fights. This leads to tragic outcomes for everyone involved. The show demonstrates how things can get out of control and conflict easily escalates.
I loved the performance, Anna O’Byrne (Maria) and Deone Zanotto (Anita) have amazing voices that moves your soul. The dancing by all the 32 performers (well the 4 adults don’t dance) has well choreographed. Orchestra Victoria is incredible and at times steal the show. My sister was surprised with the tragic outcomes and deaths but hey being based on Romeo and Juliet I wasn’t surprised except in the differences of who survives. I guess with some much fun with the music and dancing deaths of characters might seem out of place.
Recommendation: A great story for people of all ages, fun and tragic.