West Side Story
Theatre Royal, Glasgow, until Sat 29 Nov
It’s a popular misconception that West Side Story started life as a film. In fact, the 1961 celluloid version followed four years after the Broadway show – giving them a little time to move things around and get it completely right. Fifty years later, this stage production is proving that original isn’t always best.
The powerful en masse dance routines still pack a punch (unlike the fight scenes, ironically) most notably when the feisty Jets come together and during the hot and steamy dance hall scene. But positioning the comic ‘Gee Officer Krupke’ song – arguably the highlight of the night acting-wise – after gang leaders Riff and Bernardo have been killed seems incongruous, as does the ludicrous ‘Dream Scene’, mercifully cut from the film.
Inappropriate casting, however, is the show’s main problem. Daniel Koek feels wrong as the romantic lead, Tony, leading to a lack of chemistry with Sofia Escobar’s Maria that ultimately impacts on the entire show. Few of the singers have the ‘belt ‘em out’ ability the songs demand, especially when backed by an over-zealous brass section. And not everyone hangs on to their New York/Puerto Rican accent with the same tenacity.
With such incredible material to work with – Leonard Bernstein’s music, Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics and Jerome Robbins’ choreography – this show should thrill, excite and move you to the point of exhaustion. Instead it merely provides two hours of okay entertainment and an overwhelming desire to seek out the DVD.