West Side Story

Image from Unsplash


Last week I went to see the bright and brilliant Joey McKneely production of the classic West Side Story at the Regents Theatre.

As I was unfamiliar with the story, I was delighted to learn that I already knew many of the songs including ‘Something’s Coming’, ‘Tonight’ and ‘I Feel Pretty.’

This familiarity demonstrated to me the scale of success enjoyed by this theatrical masterpiece since it first arrived on Broadway in 1957.

Joey was personally chosen by the musicals original choreographer, Jerome Robbins, to reproduce his vibrant dance routines for the musical and he has done a great job. Joey has substantial directing and choreography credits, having won a number of Awards and been nominated for two Tony Awards. Here, he has created a spectacular, vibrant musical that is undeniably enjoyable.

The plot and story are loosely based on William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Set in New York City in the mid-1950s, the story explores the rivalry between the Jets and the Sharks, two teenage street gangs of different ethnic backgrounds. The members of the Sharks from Puerto Rico are taunted by the Jets, a working-class white group.

One of the Jets, Tony, falls in love with Maria, the sister of Bernardo, the leader of the Sharks. The lovers are torn between loyalty to their families and the strength of love they feel for one another. Tony and Maria pledge their eternal loyalty but due to their different origins they are denied a happy future thanks to the intolerance amongst the different groups. Their love is overtaken by fate.

The tragic love story is told through the magic of music and dance bringing to life the passionate, emotional nature of the story. The musical, with its superb musicality and dramatisation, is said to have redefined an entire theatrical genre.

The original 1957 Broadway production ran for 732 performances (a successful run for the time) before going on tour. The production received a Tony Award nomination for Best Musical in 1957, but the award ultimately went to Meredith Willson’s The Music Man. It did, however, win a Tony Award that year for its impressive choreography. The show had an even longer-running West End run, followed by a number of revivals and great international success and acclaim during the ensuing years.

The production spawned an innovative, award-winning 1961 musical film of the same name starring Natalie Wood, which won an incredible 10 Academy Awards (including Best Picture) out of eleven nominations, further cementing the reputation of this undoubted masterpiece. Today it is produced frequently by schools, regional theatres and occasionally by opera companies.

50 years after the musical made its Australian debut, it is back in Melbourne after a wildly acclaimed revival in London, Tokyo, Paris and Beijing. It is now playing at the Regent Theatre until October 3. Don’t miss out on seeing these fabulous performances. West Side Story is an absolute must!

For all the news, information and more, please visit http://www.westsidestorythemusical.com.au/home.html