By Winnie Ong
After 11 long years since its last staging in Singapore, West Side Story is finally making its way to the local stage in September. Making its debut in 1957, West Side Story, with its themes of love and bigotry, hasn’t lost its relevance. If anything, it’s even more poignant today.
“It’s top 5 in my favorite musicals list. I love the beautiful choreography, the absolutely brilliant songs, and its story of two people coming from different places falling in love with each other despite their differences and the various obstacles that they face along the way,” said Melody Ong, 19, an avid musical fan who has been a follower of West Side Story for 10 years.
Inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story depicts New York, America in the 1950s, where 2 gangs fight for dominance in their area of residence. The ‘Jets’, who consist mostly of Polish Americans, are pitted against the ‘Sharks’, who are chiefly made up of Puerto Rican immigrants. Tony and Maria are star-crossed lovers caught in the crossfire, and their love is scorned by their family and friends.
West Side Story is known for its stellar choreography and perfectly crafted scores that bring out the atmosphere, joviality, and anguish of the 1950s in New York. Some of their most famous works include “America”, “I Feel Pretty” and “Tonight”, remain relatable to 21st-century audiences.
Although masses of theatre fans are familiar with these few famous works from West Side Story, there are other songs, which are given far less credit.
“I think that people in the musical theatre scene know West Side Story very well, but they have never performed its music. I think that “Somewhere”, the song performed during the ballet scene, is the most underrated song,” said Kevin Hack, who is playing Tony for the production in Singapore, with Jenna Burns as his Maria.
Hack and Burns are joined by Keely Beirne as Anita; Lance Hayes as Riff; and Waldemar Quinones-Villanueva as Benny. Many members of this all-American cast have come straight from Broadway, having played in shows such as Les Misérables, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, and Into The Woods.
As West Side Story has been running for more than 60 years, countless adaptations could have resulted in its essence being lost along the way. However, this production promises to keep the rawness of the musical alive.
“There are thousands of different productions of West Side Story. What makes our production different is its ability to stay true to the original show back in the ’50s. We have a close connection with what the show was like back in the 50s, as we work closely with a few who worked on the original show,” Hack affirmed.
You can catch West Side Story at the Grand Theatre, MasterCard Theatres at Marina Bay Sands from 13 to 24 September 2017.