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West Side Story Review

A new production of the musical masterpiece, West Side Story, arrives at Curve for the festive season.
The cast of West Side Story. Photo by Ellie Kurttz.
West Side Story might not scream festive or Christmas but this production delivers everything theatre should. Some 60 years after the musical premiered it remains relevant, and that's much in part to William Shakespeare's tale of Romeo and Juliet that it's based on. It follows two rival gangs, The Sharks and The Jets, and a blossoming romance between one from each side.

Nikolai Foster directs this new production and his vision and leadership makes it a particularly strong piece of theatre. His vision is enhanced by Michael Taylor's bleak design. At time's it's quite bare and dark but it's really effective, particularly in the powerful final sequences. Staging the rumble sequence in a cage, making the fight appear more like two boxers in the ring is ingenious. The only part of the design that doesn't quite work is the 3 tiered tower block, it gives off poor sightlines at times and it's a lot of looking up. The design is strengthened by atmospheric lighting by Guy Hoare.

Ellen Kane's new choreography is excellent, creating a fresh feel to the musical. Her ability to convey the feeling of the scene is fabulous. Her work is a striking visual feast. "The Dance of the Gym Blues" is a magical sequence of movement. Kevin McCurdy has done a fine job as fight director, making the fight sequences look realistic and conveying the hatred each of the rival gangs has for each other.
Adriana Ivelisse (Maria) and Jamie Muscato (Tony). Photo by Ellie Kurttz.
One of the biggest strengths of the piece is the music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and the assembled orchestra of 16 make a magnificent sound. Sarah Travis and George Dyer have done a fine job with this iconic score. The flair and quality of the assembled musicians make the numbers sound fresh and exciting. The stunning playout alone is worth the ticket fee.

Jamie Muscato and Adriana Ivelisse are perfectly cast as leads Tony and Maria. Jamie is an outstanding leading man, he is hugely likeable, and even after he commits the deed of murdering Bernardo you still emphasise with him. He sings up a storm too, both the iconic numbers of "Something's Coming" and "Maria" are gorgeously sung. Adriana is sweet and delightful with a stunning vocal range. She conveys the heartbreak superbly in the final sequences. Together they make a great pairing and the number "Somewhere" proves how strong they are together. Both are stars in the making.

Ronan Burns is commanding as Riff, he leads the Jets with great authority. Jonathan Hermosa-Lopez matches Ronan's Riff well as Bernardo. Damian Buhagiar gives a strong performance as Chino seeks revenge after Bernardo is murdered. Carly Mercedes Dyer is magnificent as Anita. She oozes charm and likeability. She sings and dances fantastically too. 

It's a company full of wonderful performers, there's not a weak cast member amongst them. Worthy mentions for Beth Hinton-Lever as Anybodys, Darren Bennett as Schrank and Glad Hand and Abigail Climer as Consuela who all have standout moments. The 5 Jets boys get a fantastic showstopping number in the second act, "Gee, Officer Krupke" which is a joyous bit of vaudeville in which Isaac Gryn as Action really comes to the forefront.
Carly Mercedes Dyer (Anita). Photo by Ellie Kurttz
This production proves why West Side Story is often considered the greatest musical of all time. Nikolai and the Curve team might just have staged the Curve's best show to date. Magnificent.

Rating: ★★★★★ - an outstanding new production of a musical masterpiece. Powerful effective storytelling.

West Side Story plays at Curve until January 11th 2020. For tickets visit

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