West Side Story: A tale of forbidden love

It’s the age-old story of boy meets girl – only this is no happily-ever-after fairytale but an intense love affair that ends in tragedy.

WEST SIDE STORY tells the tale of a love between two young people ,whose happiness is destroyed by the hate of two enemy camps in New York City’s urban jungle. It is summer time in New York, and the boys from the Upper West Side neighbourhood are on the prowl, raring for action. They belong to two enemy street gangs ruling the immigrant quarter – the Jets and the Sharks – and a clash is imminent. The Jets, sons of previous immigrants to America, are fighting the new arrivals from Puerto Rico, the Sharks, for domination of the streets in the area. Among them, Tony, a Jet, and Maria, sister to the leader of the Sharks, fall instantly, desperately, in love…

This September, the international award-winning production of WEST SIDE STORY is here to wow  audiences at the MasterCard Theatres, Marina Bay Sands. Inspired by Shakespeare’s most famous love play, Romeo and Juliet, the story is set amidst the vicious rivalry of teenage gangs in 1950s New York. For my mummy friend and I who caught the gala premiere of the show last night, WEST SIDE STORY was certainly an enjoyable and welcome break from our kids 🙂

The international tour of WEST SIDE STORY coming to Singapore boasts an all-American cast, and they captivated our attention with their high-energy dance moves and unique personalities. Both “gangs” had their unruly behaviour mapped down to a tee, and totally charmed the audiences with their swagger, smooth moves and fashion style.

Not to be outdone were the bevy of beauties that swarmed around the boys in their swishy skirts and mid-riff baring tops. Girl power was not a focal point of this production – the males dominated the females right to its tragic end – but I certainly enjoyed those moments of “girl time” onstage.

In fact, my favourite character from the night was Anita, played by Keely Beirne, the lover of the Shark’s main man Bernardo. She had sass, she had style, and she had an amazing voice too. As an actress, she certainly impressed us with her nuanced portrayal of Anita’s insecurity, tenderness, hurt, anger and betrayal.

The two leads, Marc Koeck (who played Tony) and Natalie Ballenger (Maria), delivered a stellar performance as well, and amazed us with their vocal range and ability to change keys like nobody’s business! Fans of renowned composer Leonard Bernstein will enjoy listening to their rendition of “Tonight”, “Maria” and “I Am Pretty”, all of which originated from this production. However, I must say that I did find Natalie’s voice a bit too choral/operatic for my liking – it didn’t fit her character well, and was too distinct from her co-star’s voice in the duets. In fact I had to struggle to hear what she was singing at times.

That aside, I felt that there were a couple of moments during the show that felt rather draggy, as certain emotive songs were very long. The good news is that the attention-grabbing choreography certainly helped to make up for those prolonged pauses. 🙂

WEST SIDE STORY runs from 13-30 September only, at the Marina Bay Sands MasterCard Theatre. Get your tickets from SISTIC now, or hop over to Life’s Tiny Miracles for a chance to win a pair of tickets!

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We were sponsored a pair of tickets to WEST SIDE STORY for the purpose of this review. No monetary compensation was received, and all opinions expressed are ours. Performance photos used are courtesy of Sliding Doors Entertainment.

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