Entertainment Hive 2019

West Side Story

Adelaide Festival Centre, opening night Friday, November 29

Playing until December 8

Review by Honey B

Opera Australia has infused new blood into the classic 1950s musical West Side Story. It’s invigorating to see this young, fresh and impressive cast breath energy and life into the 60 year-old show, which is still just as relevant as its sensational debut at the Winter Garden Theatre on Broadway in September 1957. What is great about having a younger cast than previous versions is that it reminds theatre- goers of the true age of these young people – they are teenagers and they act like teenagers who are invincible and who forget about the consequences of their actions. Director/choreographer Joey McKneely has also brought out the fabulous dance numbers in this production and it is an absolute delight to watch. The Romeo and Juliet-inspired story of two warring gangs in New York’s gritty, run-down upper West Side, the Jets and the Sharks is a tragic tale. The white American immigrants, the Jets, want to vanquish the new Puerto Rican immigrants, the Sharks, from their perceived territory and they will fight to the death to do it. At the centre of this doomed love story is Tony (Todd Jacobson) co-founder of the Jets and Maria (Sophie Salvesani), the sister of the Sharks’ leader Bernardo (Keanu Gonzalez). Maria who works in the bridal shop with Bernardo’s girlfriend Anita (Chloe Zuel) has been promised for marriage to Bernardo’s friend Chino (Anthony Garcia). The young Salvesani and Jacobson are beautifully fresh-faced and delightfully innocent as the star-crossed lovers. Salvesani brings a touch of feistiness to Maria, whereas Jacobson seemed to be more fragile. Salvesani and Jacobson are both superb in their duets Tonight and Somewhere. Standout performer in this cast is Zuel who nails every scene in a powerful and electrifying performance. Her rendition of America was fantastic. The male ensemble also scores points for a very funny performance of Gee, Officer Krupke and Zuel and Salvesani are both mesmerising in A Boy Like That. While it is wonderful to have such a young cast, at times their inexperience could be seen but I believe it still played to this show’s favour as the warring teens are a mix of bravado and nervous fear. It’s inevitable that audiences must-see this classic production, which is full of youth, enthusiasm, jaw-dropping dance numbers, a jazzy score and a story which has lost none of its impact after so many years.
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