In 1957, the musical West Side Story debuted. That year, it was nominated for six Tony Awards, including best musical. Since then, the show has been performed countless times, in both professional and amateur productions, and has had a largely successful movie based on the original show.
Naturally, as a fan of the 1961 movie starring Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer, I was thrilled when I purchased my tickets for the National Tour of West Side Story, which ran at the Queen Elizabeth Theater from February 4 – 9, 2014.
After months of waiting, I finally saw the show on February 7. I found it to be entertaining, but by far, not the best show I’ve seen at the Queen Elizabeth.
While I was captivated by Michelle Alves’ portrayal of Anita, and Michael Spencer Smith’s Bernardo, I felt let down by the male lead; Jarrad Biron Green who played Tony, had a lovely singing voice, and was clearly a talented actor, but I found that he wasn’t believable as the co-founder, and leader of the Jets, even if Tony is partially reformed.
Furthermore, I was dissatisfied by the direction taken by David Saint, in this production of West Side Story. Saint made a bold decision by making the show grittier, and more modern. I liked this aspect of his show, as it made the characters more relate-able than the watered-down version of gangs and gangsters in the original 1957 version. Unfortunately this was overshadowed by the more noticeable direction. Saint decided to use the updated book in which much of the dialogue was translated in to Spanish. While it certainly made the show more believable regarding the Sharks, I found it difficult to understand. However, even the Spanish dialogue was easier to understand than the atrocious accents, which made the lines nearly impossible to hear.
My biggest complaint was the lack of professionalism. While watching the show, I wanted to be swept into the world that the actors were creating. I found this incredibly hard to allow myself to do, when all I could focus on was watching the actors standing in the wings, the technicians walking around backstage, and the stagehands preparing the next set to go on stage, all because someone forgot to pull across the curtain so the audience couldn’t see in to the wings, or backstage. This professionalism was not up to the standards that I am used to seeing at the Queen Elizabeth, and I can only hope that the next show I see through Broadway Across Canada, will live up to my expectations.
However, through all my complaints, I found the choreography well done, especially in the Prologue, and Dance at the Gym. It was while watching the musical numbers that I found myself finally enjoying the show.
While not spectacular, or overly captivating, West Side Story at the Queen Elizabeth theater was a fairly enjoyable night out, and a decent alternative to the typical Friday night.