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LAST NIGHT'S REVIEW: West Side Story, the Mayflower Theatre
IF it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
West Side Story remains every bit as mesmerising as ever.
I’m normally in favour of theatrical reinvention and believe every production can benefit from fresh ideas, but despite being well into its sixth decade, the show that transports Romeo and Juliet from fair Verona to 1950s New York still seems avant-garde.
It swaps ancient Italian balconies for rickety metal fire escapes on the Upper West Side of a rough, tough American city hugely effectively and its themes are every bit as relevant in the modern day.
With groundbreaking choreography by the legendary Jerome Robbins, book by Arthur Laurents, unforgettable score by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, West Side Story changed the face of musical theatre forever when it launched on Broadway in 1957.
Now Joey McKneely’s gripping production is exciting audiences with a return to its heritage.
West Side Story follows the doomed love affair of Tony and Maria and their rival gangs the Jets and the Sharks. They fight for territory on the mean streets of New York as Puerto Rican Maria (stunning vocalist Charlotte Baptie, promoted to the role through illness) is forbidden from dating all- American Tony (the impressive Louis Maskell). Their duets to the likes of Tonight are spine-tingling.
The songs need no introduction to fans of musical theatre – Maria, I Feel Pretty and particularly America, a stomping, joyous number led by another superb understudy, Sinead Kenny as Anita.
The dance moves are slick, the choreography inspired and the orchestra exceptional.
West Side Story differs very little from its last visit to the Mayflower in 2009.
But two and a half hours in the company of a masterpiece of musical theatre is always a pleasure, never a chore.
It’s thrilling from start to finish.
- West Side Story runs until Saturday, May 3. Tickets: 023 8071 1811 or visit mayflower.org.uk
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