It takes a brave creative mind to completely revamp a show that has been renowned for its staging and choreography for nearly half a century.
And West Side Story is probably the best-known show in the musical theatre canon, mainly for the style Jerome Robbins stamped firmly on it, both on stage and screen.
The show has often been hailed the greatest dance musical ever, so does this new production live up to its legendary reputation?
The answer is a resounding yes, thanks to a truly sterling cast and sublime work from David Needham, whose creative choreography and musical staging is outstanding from exciting prologue to sombre curtain call. From the opening of the prologue, seamlessly interweaving dance steps with fighting, to the energetic dance at the gym; through the fiery and feisty Sharks' banter of "America" and stunning Jets' number "Cool", Needham's watertight dancers perform every number to well-drilled perfection.
As for the leads, Mark McGee's Tony is fresh-faced and appealing, and if he sometimes lacks the stature of the supposed former leader of the Jets, his scenes with Maria, former Fame Academy housemate Camilla Beeput, are convincing and beautiful.
Beeput however is a real find. Her crystal-clear vocals bring tears to your eyes, whether finding love with Tony in "Tonight" or duetting with Anita in the exquisite "I Have a Love". Her innocence contrasts superbly with the sexy and sassy Anita, played and danced with flair and style by Leyla Pellegrini.
With such strong principals, one would almost expect the gang leaders to disappoint, but again the contrast between Jets and Sharks is perfect. Where Nick Winston's Riff is all testosterone-fuelled machismo, Steven-John Tokaya's Bernardo is sleek and full of Latin passion. Both are excellent and create a real sense of tension between their respective gangs.
Under the direction of Paul Kerryson and Kully Thiarai, the story
remains true to Romeo and Juliet, a tragedy of wide-eyed youngsters tasting the fruits of first, forbidden love, against the wishes of their families, communities and contemporaries.
Musical director Julian Kelly's arrangements of the classic Leonard
Bernstein score are exquisite and powerful, played brilliantly by the
13-piece orchestra, and Ben Harrison's sound should also be congratulated, not least for perfectly balancing two groups, three soloists and the orchestra in the pre-rumble quintet.
So, you know the plot, you know the songs, why bother seeing the show again? Quite simply, West Side Story has never had it so good.