Hailed as one of the greatest musicals of all time West Side Story changed the course of musical theatre when it opened over 50 years ago in 1957. Now it is making its home in Manchester after having just completed a successful season at London’s Sadler’s Wells.
Inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story is set on Manhattan’s Upper West Side and focuses on the rivalry between 2 gangs, the Jets, a group of Polish-American lads and the Sharks a bunch of Puerto Rican guys. When Tony (Louis Maskell), one of the Jets, falls in love with Maria (Katie Hall) whose brother Bernardo heads up the Sharks, the course of true love does not run smooth.
...when he belts out ‘Maria’ he proves exactly why he’s the leading man in this production - it’s pure magic.
Katie Hall is totally convincing as the lovestruck Maria capturing the innocence and childlike naivety of the role. Equally as impressive are Halls soprano vocals, although it’s hardly surprising since her past roles include Cosette in Les Miserables and Christine in The Phantom of the Opera.
Louis Maskell as Tony puts in an assured performance, full of passion and energy. The connection between Hall and Maskell is at times electric and they way they gaze into each others eyes makes you yearn for a love just like theirs.
Maskell’s New York accent was a little distracting in parts and may have benefitted from being softer, having said that when he belts out ‘Maria’ he proves exactly why he’s the leading man in this production - it’s pure magic.
A special mention must go to Djalenga Scott as Anita, the feisty yet vulnerable girlfriend of Sharks leader Bernardo. Her duet with Hall in ‘A Boy Like That’ is so powerful that many were left reaching for heir tissues by the final note.
With an unforgettable score from Leonard Bernstein, accompanied by Stephen Sondheim’s clever lyrics there’s a plethora of timeless classics to watch out for including I Feel Pretty, Somewhere and Tonight.
Joey McKneely’s choreography and direction is impressive as he captures the essence of the groundbreaking dance sequences Jerome Robbins originally created.
This is a professional and accomplished production that won’t disappoint fans of the musical and will touch the hearts of any newcomers.
Runs until 4th January 2014 at the Palace Theatre, Manchester.