Review Round-up: West Side a Winner 50 Years On?
In the gangland New York reworking of Shakespeare\'s Romeo and Juliet, Tony, founder of the native Jets, falls in love with Maria, sister of the Puerto Rican Sharks\' leader. The two young lovers are swiftly caught up in a vicious battle between the opposing sides. The musical features a now-classic score with songs such as \"America\", \"Somewhere\", \"Officer Krupke\", \"I Feel Pretty\", \"Tonight\" and \"Maria\".
West Side Story has a book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. The 50th anniversary revival, as with all professional productions since the 1957 Broadway premiere, is based on the original direction and choreography of Jerome Robbins. It’s directed by Joey McKneely and designed by Paul Gallis, with costumes by Renate Schmitzer, sound by Rick Clarke, lighting by Peter Halbsgut and musical supervision by Donald Chan.
At fifty years old, West Side Story managed to impress the overnight critics who were in agreement that not only is the anniversary production “beautiful to behold” but also socially relevant, carrying a “stinging, contemporary resonance” in the light of recent knife crime statistics. There was much praise for Leonard Bernstein’s music and Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics which were felt to combine to create “the greatest Broadway musical of all time”. However, several critics commented that aspects of the production seem “woefully dated” and “a little too cosy”, lacking any real grit and leaving audiences looking for “more roughness and passion”. The cast received a generally positive reception, and although no performers seemed to stand out above the rest, Sofia Escobar’s Maria was praised widely.
- by Kate Jackson