Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester – until 25 May 2019
This is the year of the West Side Story revival. Leicester Curve has announced the iconic musical as its Christmas production; Ivo van Hove is working on a Broadway reimagining with choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and Stephen Spielberg is set to make a new film version. Proudly, Manchester’s Royal Exchange is running in front with fresh and contemporary Converse clad choreography by Aletta Collins.
Arguably West Side Story is one of the most dynamic and dazzling Broadway productions. Director Sarah Frankcom is never one to shy away from big American classics. Revered for her perceptive reimaginings of A Streetcar Named Desire, Our Town and more recently, Death of a Salesman – West Side Story is her first major musical production. And it is nothing short of a complete triumph.
Anna Fleischle’s moveable climbing frame design intelligently maximises the floor space of the Royal Exchange. This production is all about the new dance moves – beautifully balletic and loaded with emotion. Twisted. Coiled.
The casting of this production is top-notch. Mexican born Gabriela Garcia shines as Maria. Deceptively delicate and diminutive, she also shows strength, youthfulness and resilience. Andy Coxon has endless appeal as Tony. These two performers make a delightful pairing on Bernstein’s much-loved musical score. Gripping. Goosebumps.
On the night I attended, West Side Story played to a packed house with many in the audience singing and swaying along – obviously the musical score features all of the well-loved songs – ‘Maria’, ‘America’, ‘Somewhere’ and ‘Tonight’. The show came down to tumultuous applause, some tears and a well-deserved standing ovation. There aren’t many tickets left for the run (if any, I’m afraid), I just hope the Royal Exchange extend this production because it is truly fabulous.