MUSIC OWL AWARD: 4th – choreography
When I went: 25 August 2013
Location: Sadler’s Wells, London
Performers: Elena Sancho Pereg (Maria), Liam Tobin (Tony), Penelope Armstead-Williams (Anita), John Wodja (Lt Schrank)
Creative team: Jerome Robbins (choreography), Arthur Laurents (book), Leonard Bernstein (music), Stephen Sondheim (lyrics), William Shakespeare (original Romeo and Juliet play), Joey McKneely (director)
Approximate price: £75
Special points: Happier ending
Best bit: America
If I could change one thing: Happier ending
West Side Story, with its basis of Shakespeare’s probably best-known play, Romeo and Juliet, has a tragic ending but plenty of wit and humour throughout. Some of the songs, including America, Somewhere, One Hand, One Heart, Tonight, I Feel Pretty and Something’s Coming, are first-rate, with Stephen Sondheim’s pithy lyrics doing justice to Leonard Bernstein’s hummable tunes.
Unfortunately, the underlying theme of racial tension and ‘controversial’ immigration is still relevant today. The Jets and Sharks’ tribal battles have little effect on the developing romance between Tony and Maria, but it is often the more worldly-wise Anita who steals the show, with some of the best songs and lines.
Jerome Robbins’ choreography was the highlight of this performance and put a different spin on the production. Elena Sancho-Pereg as Maria, and Penelope Armstead-Williams as Anita, were both full of sparkle and heart. However, the chemistry between Maria and Liam Tobin’s Tony was not as strong as it should have been, given the importance of this to the story.
It was good to see a non-West End production of such a renowned musical, and I’d like to see more of Robbins’ choreography.