Extra Review: West Side Story, King’s Theatre

VOTED time and again as one of the best musicals ever, it’s easy to see why audiences come in their droves to see West Side Story.

Photo by Alastair Muir.
Photo by Alastair Muir.

Sure, there’s no happy ending in sight — even if you’re not familiar with the 50s New York backdrop, a quick skim through Romeo and Juliet will tell you that it doesn’t end well — but nonetheless the Glasgow crowd packed the King’s Theatre, tissues at the ready.

West Side Story is, of course, based on Shakespeare’s famous tragedy, transported to the mean streets of Manhattan by Bernstein and Sondheim, and related to younth gang warfare and a culture of intolerance against immigrants.

The Jets (the ‘natives’) are waging a war with the Sharks (the young Peurto Ricans) — but when ex-Jet Tony meets and falls for the sister of the Sharks leader, Maria, he has high hopes for bringing both groups together.

Photo Alastair Muir.

Both leads (Louis Maskell and Katie Hall) deliver incredible musical performances — the young lovers story is weighted in high-noted songs (Something’s Coming, Tonight, Maria) and they hit every one accordingly.

The ensemble are just as engaging — the Jet boys (led by Jack Wilcox as Riff) in particular are like wound-up toys, ready to spring into action at any minute, and songs like Cool and Officer Krupke are all the more engaging because of the energy on stage.

Djalenga Scott provides the best performance of the lot, as Bernardo’s girl Anita — but then, the naughty-but-nice character always seems to lend itself to more development.

A duet between Anita and Maria (A Boy Like That) is perhaps the most touching of the show, as the younger girl pleads with Anita to help her run away with Tony, despite the fact that Anita is grieving for her own lost love.

And, there’s new ground here too; when Tony and Maria sing Somewhere, the entire cast imagines a world where both gangs mix, and happily, in a moving dance sequence — but sadly, it’s short-lived, and the entire ensemble is dragged, strangled even, back to grim reality.

Looking around, it was clear that almost every audience member was familiar with the story, mouthing the words to songs and nodding in amusement when someone cracked a well-worn joke (“Hey, I’m depraved on account I’m deprived!”)

West Side Story remains a classic for a reason — and whether you’re a fan of the film or have seen the stage show countless times, the touring production will transport you to Manhattan and back (just please, remember those tissues...)

West Side Story runs until January 25. Tickets are £17.90-£53.40, available from ATG Tickets.