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Review WEST SIDE STORY at QPAC

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If you're out for a night of good music, dazzling choreography, a touch of nostalgia and a story that still hits too close to home, West Side Story is the place to go.

On Saturday night I had the pleasure of being invited to the opening night West Side Story; a story that is almost just as relevant, though not always politically correct, as when it made its debut in the 1950's. You all know the story but if you don't, think of Romeo and Juliet but with aggressive clicking and only one of the tragic young lovers die. But back to the review...

Review WEST SIDE STORY at QPAC

For me, West Side Story story has always been all about the score. Choreographer and director Joey McKneely and associate choreographer Brendan Yeates brings the score to life in such a dynamic and vibrant way; capturing each tension and colour of emotion. Once again, I was sitting in the audience, jaw dropped behind my mask, lost in wonderment at how these actors can move their bodies with such precision and effortlessness, when I can't often even bring myself to go to the gym.

The music by Leonard Bernstein, the lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and the choreography by McKneely blend together in such an exquisite fashion; it's a bit like melting of a piece of chocolate on your tongue before you taste it. Thus, it was a shame that we couldn't hear most of the lyrics sung on stage as the performers mic's weren't loud enough. Fingers crossed that QPAC has already fixed this for their future performances and that it was only an opening night incident as it's quite jarring from the audience when you can't make out every second word the majority of the performers are singing...

Review WEST SIDE STORY at QPAC

For me the stand out performers were the Jets, who just had such a fantastic, playful and joyous energy to each other when they were dancing on stage. I believed that they were old mates and I kind of wished they were mine, until I remembered what they were going to do to Anita in Act Two. I won't spoil that moment in here just in case you're unfamiliar with the musical and are still tossing up as to whether you should go see it or not, but I think it was one of the most brilliantly executed scenes in the production. It gave me shivers, it made me snarl and it made me sad to think that we haven't changed that much in over half a century. Another stand out moment for me was the choreography of the song Somewhere, which I interpreted as an ideal heaven like sequence in which each character, no matter their ethnicity, can interact peacefully.

Additionally, Angelina Thomson, who played Anita, was not only fiesty and daring, but Thomson found a way to equally portray her as a fiercely protective older-sister like figure to Maria, which was comforting to watch. This production also reminded me how much I dislike the character of Maria and how one dimensional the writers have created her, which, once again, is a trope shockingly apparent in modern day popular culture. Whilst Sophie Salvesani captured the essence of Maria in her dialogue, in the songs she felt too operatic. Although the duets were beautifully sung by Salvesani and Nigel Huckle (Tony), it removed me from the world of the show and back into mandatory-mask co-vid times.

Review WEST SIDE STORY at QPAC

If you're out for a night of good music, dazzling choreography, a touch of nostalgia and a story that still hits too close to home, West Side Story is the place to go.

Rating: 3.5 Stars

West Side Story runs until the 22nd of August at QPAC.


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