18 February to 1 March 2014
Reviewed by Christine Charlesworth
On Tuesday 18 February I went to see West Side Story at New Victoria Theatre Woking. I arrived early, but already the theatre was buzzing with a steady flow of people making their way along to the Piano Bar for a pre-theatre glass of wine, or just mingling, chatting to each other in the pleasant environment of the newly decorated foyers. This was, yet again, a sell-out for this ever popular theatre.
West Side Story is a tragic love story based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, but with a difference. This story is based in the Manhattan back streets of New York, where two rival street gangs clash and the police force is racist and corrupt. The ‘lovers’ are Tony, of the Jets gang and Maria, newly arrived in New York and sister to Bernardo of the Latino Sharks gang.
It is 57 years since the original Jerome Robbins and Leonard Bernstein production of West Side Story took Broadway by storm and we are now fairly familiar with many of the well known songs, such as ‘Maria’, ‘Tonight’, ‘America’, and ‘I Feel Pretty. In this latest production we are able to step back in time as Joel McKneely uses choreography from the original show, costumes are very much in keeping with that era and the extremely versatile set, designed by Paul Gallis, with moveable iron fire-escapes and balconies against a full-screen backdrop of old Manhattan, gives an authentic atmosphere.
Katie Hall played Maria with just the right amount of naivety, her singing was wonderful and her character believable. Her lover, Tony, played by Louis Maskell, was rather wooden and less believable in comparison. In the performance I saw, the part of Riff was played by understudy Matthew Croke who gained confidence as the production progressed. Djalenga Scott was superb as Anita, so full of passion and energy. The rival gangs treated us to athletic and extremely well choreographed manoeuvres and there were some wonderful dance numbers, including ‘America’, the ‘Procession/Nightmare’ and I also felt that ‘Gee, Officer Krupke’ was great fun. Music throughout the show was excellent, although at times seemed a little too loud with a tendency to dominate the singing.
This West Side Story tour opened last September at Sadlers Wells and has been extremely well received at all of the 10 venues visited in the UK so far. Seats are selling fast for performances at Woking, where it can be seen until 1 March 2014.
There will be further performances in Edinburgh, Birmingham, Nottingham, Milton Keynes and Cardiff and I would certainly recommend booking tickets to see this production.
Tickets cost from £17.90 to £53.40 (plus £2.85 transaction fee).
For more information or to book tickets click here.