Here is my confession. I’ve never seen West Side Story, the movie, or the stage version. So Broadway Across Canada’s presentation of it in Calgary was brand new to me, though a lot of the music was familiar.
The musical is inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and is set in an Upper West Side neighbourhood in New York, where tension is boiling over for two teenage rival gangs belonging to different ethnic backgrounds, the Jets (Polish American) and the Sharks (Puerto Rican Americans). At the neighbourhood dance, Tony (Jarrad Biron Green), one of the Jets falls in love with Maria (MaryJoanna Grisso), sister to a the Sharks leader Bernardo (Michael Spencer Smith). But things fall apart for the couple when Tony joins the gang fight and wind up killing Bernardo in vengeance of the death of friend Riff. Both Bernardo’s girlfriend Anita (Michelle Alves) and Doc (Mark Fishback) try and help the couple but they can’t escape their fate.
Broadway Across Canada’s West Side Story features the West Side Story orchestra, and the live music is a nice touch. The play also features engaging music and great lyrics as well as strong choreography. It’s the parts in between those elements that could use some work, especially the development of the love between Tony and Maria. Lacking Shakespeare’s imagery in the balcony scene, the love between this couple seems lacking. The dialogue between them is pedestrian. They should just stick to the singing and dancing.
James Youmans’ scenic design is quite impressive and Howell Binkley’s lighting design sets the mood of the musical. The play also features some strong voices, especially Grisso and Alves.
West Side Story is a compelling story, with engaging dancing and singing. It does have it’s cringe worthy moments in dialogue though.
Broadway Across Canada’s West Side Story runs until the 16th of February. More information is available online.
Photo Credit: Carol-Rosegg