Palace Theatre, Broadway
By Deborah Searle
As West Side Story makes its way to the Australian shore, I thought I’d go and see the Broadway rendition. A fan of the movie, which I watched several times as a young girl, I was excited to see the stage production, and I wasn’t disappointed.
Based loosely on the tale of Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story tells the story of a young couple pulled apart by racial differences and gang violence. The story is hard hitting and passionate.
For the Broadway production the casting is strong and the dancing proficient. Some of the performers are definitely more actors than dancers, and some are better at dancing than acting, however, all are competent and committed.
Josefina Scaglione as Maria is cute and youthfully innocent, and a good fit for the role. Her vocals are beautiful and her acting is strong. However, she is a little hard to understand at times, coming in and out of her character’s Puerto Rican accent, taking away from her generally very solid performance. In the last, tragic scene, she is all too convincing as she mourns Tony’s death.
Jeremy Jordan as Tony is perfect as the young, love struck teenager. He is a capable actor and talented singer. He has a lovely voice, is good looking and engaging, and seems every bit the ‘high school heart throb’.
I was happy to see that the dancing performed is the original, iconic Jerome Robbins choreography. At times it feels a little dated, but this can be forgiven as the moves are not only legendary, but deceptively challenging. I enjoyed every dance scene immensely, as lucky for me, West Side Story contains a lot of traditional, Broadway style jazz.
Anita and her Puerto Rican friends are fun, colourful and entertaining. Karen Olivo seems made for the role of Anita, as she commands the stage and everybody’s attention. Although not a technically brilliant dancer, she is a strong and sassy performer.
The Jets ensemble are all skilled dancers, with Ryan Steele a stand out. His extension and precision shine. Amy Reyerson as Riff’s love interest, Graziella, is also eye-catching.
The musical score is brilliant, and favourites such as “I Feel Pretty”, “Maria” and “When You’re a Jet”, pull you into the story. “America” performed by the Shark ladies, is full of kicks and skirt shaking fun and is a highlight of the show.
With much Spanish featured in the lines and lyrics, I found some lines a little hard to understand, but this gives the story an authentic feel.
The sets are brilliant, with the rumble scene complete with overhead bridge and chain linked fencing, making it all seem very real.
West Side Story has it all; a ripper story line, strong and exciting dance, catchy and beautiful songs, and passionate, dedicated acting. It is a night of high quality theatre, not to be missed.
Photos by Joan Marcus