This past weekend, I got to see West Side Story at the Stratford Festival. Loved loved loved it. I’m always a sucker for musicals, and West Side Story is one of my favourites. Plus, Stratford always puts on a good show.
I’m sure everyone knows the story – a modern retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Takes place in New York in the 1950’s, and there are these two gangs: the Sharks (the Puerto Ricans) and the Jets (those who considered themselves “true Americans”). They’re fighting over a bit of land, when Tony (one of the Jets) and Maria (the brother of the head of the Sharks) fall in love. Blah blah blah, star-crossed lovers, death, murder, tears and lots of singing. OH YES.
The thing I don’t really get is that I HATE R&J, and yet love West Side Story. Hate that R&J is considered romantic when they both end up killing themselves. Maybe it’s because they don’t actually kill themselves in West Side Story – someone else kills Tony, and Maria lives at the end. I don’t think it’s romantic, it’s completely tragic, but I positively love it. Maybe it’s because everyone isn’t always raving about how romantic it is, so I’m not so up-in-arms about it. And then again, maybe it’s because there are song and dance numbers in it, and I really can’t not enjoy a good song and dance number.
So, the last time I saw West Side Story live was also at the Stratford Festival, but I sadly don’t remember much about it, so I don’t have too much to compare it to. Needless to say, though, this production was FABULOUS. Not the all-time-best performance of any play that I’ve ever seen at the Festival, but I can definitely see why it is this season’s hit. The actors were all amazing – especially those playing Maria and Tony (Chilina Kennedy and Paul Nolan). They completely blew me away!
And the dance numbers were of course gorgeous:
There was one scene that I did NOT enjoy one bit… During the song “Somewhere,” they had this little kid singing the song, Bernardo and Riff were on stage for part of the song along with all of the rest of the cast, and it was just a bit too sentimental for my liking. Urgh.
But, other than that, everything else was fantastic! Loved it, and definitely highly recommend going to see this production of the show.