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Theatre Review: West Side Story - Edinburgh Playhouse ✭✭✭✭

Review by Graeme Shield

The West Side Story, currently at the Edinburgh Playhouse, is the hit international touring production of the classic 1957 musical that was conceived, choreographed and directed by Jerome Robbins.

I would suggest that how much you enjoy this touring version will undoubtedly depend on what you feel about West Side Story in the first instance. Admittedly, I was never fond of the original film (when made to watch it during high school).  However, what I discovered when the curtain rose was an unexpected blend of powerful movement, story and one of the best musical scores you’re likely to find.

Based loosely around the story of Romeo & Juliet, Arthur Laurent’s book shifts the story to 1950s New York and focuses on two gangs – the Sharks & the Jets – to see who can click their fingers in the most dramatic fashion.

Director/Choreographer Joey McKneely has very sensibly reproduced the original choreography – a smart decision and one that provides a throwback to the truth and honesty of the original production.
The performances of Tony & Maria, played by Louis Maskell and the sublime Katie Hall, were fantastic and well-rounded. Strong support was given by Jack Wilcox as Riff and Jalenga Scott as Anita. The ensemble were really put through their paces and acquitted themselves admirably.

In West Side Story, Leonard Bernstein created a score that is effectively a character in itself which musical director Ben van Tienen and his exquisite 18-piece band brought to life. The powerful jazzy sequences punched while the delicate melodies soared into the heavens.

Where other older musicals seem keen to ‘reinvent’ themselves, this one seems content to revel in the brilliance of it’s original work. I’m pleased to say that I now understand why my music teacher wanted us to experience the brilliance of Bernstein’s music all those years ago. For the unconverted, it’s time to give it another chance.

West Side Story is at the Edinburgh Playhouse until 29th March. For tickets and information visit www.atgtickets.com/Edinburgh

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