“Eclectic and Electric” Wellington’s West Side Story

‘West Side Story’ first hit the New York stage over 60 years ago, but although the 1950s are an age away, Bernstein’s score remains as fresh as ever. The story line has more than stood the test of time, based as it is on the gang warfare that inspired Romeo and Juliet back in the C16th. Montagues and Capulets become Sharks and Jets, Veronese streets morph into Brooklyn back alleys, but Tony and Maria, the star-crossed lovers play out a dance as old as time itself. It is a wonderful show, arguably the greatest of all musicals, and a perfect choice for Wellington’s first full-scale musical in our brand-new Annenberg Performing Arts Centre.

From the dramatic opening sequence, as the rival gangs staked out their territory, to the tragic final moments, the packed audience was spellbound. This show seemed to have everything: spectacular dance routines spiced with moments of pathos, showstopping ballads alongside wise-cracking comedy. It was both eclectic and electric, and there was, quite literally, something for everyone. Lucas Evans (L6, Pn) as Riff led his Jets with snarling menace, wonderfully counterpointed by Omer Bilgin’s (U6, Pn) posturing Bernardo. Will Alley (U6, Pn) and Rafe Sadleir (U6, Bn) were excellent as Schrank and Doc, playing those roles with all the frustration of adults aghast but powerless to prevent the destructive tendencies of the young, while Fin Allington (U6, Bn), Maddie Power (5th, O), Michael MacLeod (U6, Bl) and Freddie Gillmore (L6, Hg) brought energy, wit and style to the conflict. Alexia Taee (U6, C) was simply brilliant as Anita, and nowhere more so than when leading America flamenco style – song and dance coming together absolutely perfectly, just as it did so often throughout the evening. All the dancers were fantastic, and the stage (and what a brilliant set it was) was alive with rhythm and colour all night long.

But more than any of this were the two towering performances from Luca Lupino-Franglen (U6, R) and Jemima Huxtable (L6, O): seldom can Tony and Maria’s story have been told with such searing intensity. These were two brilliant performances that lifted the show and made it something special:  on this special night the world was truly full of light, and Wellington’s ‘West Side Story’ will live long in the memory. Many congratulations to all the performers, and especially so to Simon Williamson and Jo Brayton, the Musical Director and Director.

Back to all news