West Side Story is a musical that has everything! Love, betrayal and tragedy plus everything we want from a show: iconic songs, great characters and top-notch dance numbers! Being a classic we have high expectations of what we want and this latest Sydney production ticks every box and delivers on every front. It quenches our thirst for what we’ve been waiting for!
This production is faithful to the film and yet stands on its own, with a fresh flavour. Director/choreographer Joey Mckneely has captured the essence of the story and has created a refreshing powerful, passionate production of an old favourite.
What I have always absolutely loved about West Side is the very strong dance component. Numbers that last several minutes, where you experience routines in their entirety without being chopped up. There is a great sequence at the ‘dance’ where the couples move in vibrant, fast paced, energy packed choreography.
Jerome Robbins created choreography that encapsulated the time, the characters and the urban culture. The legendary choreography in this production is interlaced with Joey Mckneely’s modernisation of the work.
Based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and set in New York City in the mid 50s, West Side Story follows Tony (Josh Piterman) and Maria (Julie Goodwin) as they fall in love amidst the turbulent, unstable gang culture of the Jets (Caucasian) and the Sharks (Puerto Rican).
The two leaders of the gangs, Bernardo (Nigel Turner-Carroll) and Riff (Rohan Browne) are extremely well cast as the domineering, powerful and violent gang leaders.
The stand-out artist overall is Alinta Chidzey who plays Anita. Chidzey is charismatic, electric and an absolute triple threat. She has beautiful balletic ability as well as strength and attack. Coupled with a fantastic strong, passionate and playful singing voice and the most engaging, well developed and comfortable characterisation in her role of Anita. Definitely one to watch!
The beauty of West Side is that the underlying story and complexities of cultural intolerance, and social prejudice still ring true today and that’s where this musical makes such a real, raw social comment which still has weight and meaning in today’s society.
This musical is far from teeth and taps, it really hones in on the ever- present relevant issues of racism and the devastating effects these social attitudes generate.
Two stand-out songs were ‘Gee Officer Krupke!’ a tongue-in-cheek, slapstick style song by the larrikin Jets and ‘America’ performed by the Puerto Rican girls, which is a fun, flirty, cheeky song and dance. These two songs serve as some light hearted comic relief and are an absolute delight!
Timeless, captivating, energetic and moving, West Side Story is a must-see!
Emma Bell is a Sydney based
writer, reviewer and interviewer and can be found at