West Side Story Johannesburg Theatre

KATHERINE ATKINSON

If musical theatre is where talent meets magic, then Johannesburg Theatre’s production of West Side Story is no exception. This classic is a modern-day take on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, following the lives of star-crossed lovers Tony and Maria whose love must conquer their racially divided gangs, the New York “Jets” and Puerto Rican “Sharks”.

In 2015 West Side Story was performed at The Fugard Theatre in Cape Town and its success is what drove it to the Johannesburg Theatre. Not falling short of any expectation, the singing and dancing was perfectly polished. The two leads gave convincing and sincere performances and their exceptional voices filled the theatre with awe.

The 4 900 man hours it took to make the set certainly paid off, as through its ingenious simplicity it conveyed power and authenticity. It played with different depths, heights and lighting which gave a realistic feeling of the streets of the Upper West in the 1950s.

This musical is ultimately a tragedy, yet the vibrancy of the Puerto Rican culture gave the play a colourful and fun flair through means of costume and music. This element uplifted the otherwise serious themes of the play, such as racial segregation, violence and crime.

Although this is an American-based musical, director Matthew Wild wrote that the “violent subject matter seems unnervingly close to home”, which is one of the reasons why the audience can get so invested whilst watching the performance.

West Side Story is perfect for any music, drama, dance or art lover and will be showing from 24 January to 5 March at the Johannesburg Theatre.

 

4/5

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