Ask Audrey Ask Audrey
Archived

West Side Story

"the most impressive I’ve ever seen"

Audrey review: Francesca Zambello’s new production brings a sweeping sense of urban scale to a Broadway classic.

Text size
Text size
Company: Opera Australia
Add to favourites

West Side Story

Date: 5 Apr 2019

Francesca Zambello’s new production of West Side Story is, from a visual standpoint alone, the most impressive I’ve ever seen.

With the Sydney skyline serving as a backdrop, we get a true sense of the story’s urban scale. Yes, the action is confined to a few Manhattan blocks over which two gangs compete for ascendency, but its central tragedy – that of Tony and Maria – is made to echo across the city.

This is the first musical staged in the Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour annual event but this highpoint of the Broadway form seems perfectly at home on the floating stage. Even the traditional fireworks – which fire at the climax of ‘America’ – have found a natural place to pop.

Brian Thomson’s set looks an eyesore in the pre-show dusk: basketball court lines on the deck; a concrete overpass above; a mess of graffiti-covered subway cars (I was reminded of the old Harold Park tramsheds, prior to them being gussied up). But when the show kicks off, John Rayment’s lighting turns it into something quite magical – a place where love can bloom.

With a lot of distance to cover, choreographer Julio Monge has his dancers attack Jerome Robbins’ routines with vigour. While remaining graceful, the male ensembles – the Sharks and the Jets – are muscular to the point of brawny. They make their movie counterparts look svelte and unthreatening.

The female dancers are lithe and passionate – an impression accentuated by the water spray kicked up during the opening night downpour that doused the first 45 minutes of the show. If only there was some way to confine the rain to the stage …

The casting of Julie Lea Goodwin as Maria will strike many as problematic (given that Australia’s musical theatre ranks are more diverse than those of its opera companies) but the strength and suppleness of her voice lends dramatic heft to the role. Her duets with Alexander Lewis’ Tony are scintillating for all their sweetness.

In the second tier roles, Mark Hill shines as Riff, as does Waldemar Quinones-Villanueva as his opposite number, Bernardo.

Scott Irwin (Lt Schrank) and David Whitney (Doc, the owner of the corner store) are strong in non-singing roles.

And while there is no shortage of fireworks, Karli Dinardo’s Anita is easily the brightest firecracker of the night.

Leonard Bernstein’s propulsive score, delivered by an orchestra under the stage and with no instrumental corners cut, sounds superb.

Content
Te Molimau
Add to favourites
ArchivedBelvoir Downstairs, Surry Hills, Sydney 7 - 24 Aug 2019

Te Molimau

Audrey review: Taofia Pelesasa's depicton of an island culture swamped by rising oceans is Pasifika storytelling at its finest, writes Gabriel Faatau'uu-Satiu.

Rainbow’s End
Add to favourites
ArchivedEternity Playhouse, Darlinghurst, Sydney 10 Aug - 1 Sep 2019

Rainbow’s End

Audrey review: Jane Harrison’s comedy-flecked drama spotlights one family’s struggle for equality in housing, education, work and opportunity.

West Side Story
Add to favourites
MusicalSydney Opera House 16 Aug - 6 Oct 2019

West Side Story

Audrey review: Joey McKneely's faithful staging only serves to highlight how dated a show - even one that was radical in its time - can become.

See More

More to see

View All
A Night’s Game
Add to favourites
ArchivedRiverside Theatres, Parramatta, Sydney 5 - 7 Sep 2019

A Night’s Game

Inspired by true-life events, Kristina and Sadé Alleyne explore the turmoil of those faced with the prospect of incarceration.

Take Two: A Comedy of Errors
Add to favourites
TheatreRiverside Theatres, Parramatta, Sydney 13 - 14 Sep 2019

Take Two: A Comedy of Errors

Hilary Bell's modern language adaptation of Shakespeare's early comedy is "one big, dazzling magic trick".

Betty Breaks Out
Add to favourites
ArchivedBordello Room, Kings Cross Hotel, Sydney 27 Aug - 7 Sep 2019

Betty Breaks Out

A silent film actress is kidnapped. Her leading man is locked up in the next room. What lengths must they go to break out of the roles they were built for?

Brutal
Add to favourites
TheatreThe Launch Pad, Tuggerah Business Park, NSW 6 - 14 Sep 2019

Brutal

A new work of dance theatre draws on Shakespeare's tragedy Julius Caesar as its source text.

Top