Wednesday, 22 July 2009

West Side Story - Lowry Theatre, Salford

West Side Story
Music: Leonard Bernstein
Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim
Director: Joey McKneely
Reviewer: Lindsay Kelly

It is hard to believe it is 50 years since one of the most endearing musicals of our time, West side Story first hit the stage. A Romeo and Juliet based musical. Highly emotional, beautifully choreographed and with an amazing soundtrack, Remembered by the older generation for the songs, and loved by the younger ones for the lively dancing, this is a musical the whole family can enjoy.

The book has been written by Arthur Laurents and is set on Upper Manhattan’s West Side in the 1950’s. The two gangs, the Jets and the Sharks face the biggest challenge of all, when Tony, the leader of the Jets falls madly in love with Maria, the sister of Peurto Rican gang leader of the Sharks. The two gangs battling for control of the neighbourhood are plunged further into cultural division and violent resolution when the secret love of Tony and Maria is discovered.

The set by Paul Gallis of basic American style balconies and fire escapes was well used especially for some of the dances.

The accents of the Peurto Rican’s was hard to understand at first but by the second half you had actually become accustomed to it. The first half of the show was very slow and dragged along to the interval, but after refreshments the second half livened up and you really started to enjoy yourself, singing along with Maria ( Sophia Escobar), Tony ( Daniel Koek) and Anita (Jayde Westaby), these three really had the voices to carry off the strong numbers they were required to sing and hit the notes with no trouble, the rest of the cast were great too and each one played a fabulous part.

The score is by Leonard Bernstein with lyrics Stephen Sondheim and includes such memorable hits as Maria, Tonight, America and Jet Song, which under the musical direction of Simon Beck had you singing and tapping your feet throughout.

Directed and Choreographed by Joey McKneely this is a show which could quite easily still be around for another 50 years.

Photos Alistair Muir
West Side Story runs at the Lowry until Sat 25th July
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