“There’s a place for us”
For me, West Side Story occupies that most special of places in that I can’t remember life without it. It’s a film I’ve loved to watch and a score I’ve loved to listen to since I was kneehigh to the proverbial and it is a love that has remained undiminished. I saw the last international tour of the show twice at Sadler’s Wells and so had thought I’d give this one a miss as it was more or less the same production, but the casting news for the extensive UK tour that followed meant I couldn’t resist a cheeky trip to the New Wimbledon to see it on its way.
Joey McKneely’s excellent production is well-contained within Paul Gallis’ brooding set design which forms the perfect backdrop for showcasing Jerome Robbins’ inimitable choreography which feels as fresh as it has ever done, not least because of the sheer timelessness of the gorgeous songs. ‘Somewhere’, ‘Tonight’, ‘Maria’, ‘I Feel Pretty’, ‘America’…the list goes on and given the huge enthusiasm from the fresh young ensemble gathered here, one can see the magic continuing to go on for generations of potential musical-lovers to come.
Katie Hall’s Maria is simply beautifully voiced, a glorious soprano and a teenage zest for life that is impossible to ignore, one ignited by the meeting with the boy from the wrong side, Louis Maskell’s Tony. Maskell is a performer I’ve previously liked, though never really be blown away by, but his vocal here really is spectacular as a thoroughly romantic lad. Djalenga Scott’s Anita is utterly charismatic, Javier Cid’s Bernardo glowers brilliantly and I also liked Jack Wilcox’s fierce Riff. In all honesty, you already know if you’re going to like West Side Story and I doubt this would change your mind either way. What it does do though, is remind people just how amazing a show it is.