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West Side Story is about romance, rivalry and an ill-fated rumble. Buckle up for a roller coaster ride in Curve's fantastic revival of the hit musical.

West Side Story was one of the first musicals I watched and it won me over immediately. And how could it not? Girl from rival gang/family meets boy from rival gang/family, they fall in love with music and dance, but of course the families disapprove and violence ensues…ohhh the musical had all the makings of a tragic, old Bollywood flick and I had seen my fair share of those.

Photography by Ellie Kurttz

This year, Curve’s festive production is a reworking of the great Broadway musical fast forward some 60 odd years and many of the themes are still prevalent today – immigration, police mockery, gang rivalry, knife crime.

But beyond the violence and the aggression, there’s the innocent love story between Tony and Maria. Puerto Rican native, Adriana Ivelisse plays Maria perfectly – this is her debut stage performance and she not only nails the accent, but also the vocals.

Jamie Muscato plays Tony and their chemistry on stage is brilliant – you really feel his pain after he’s killed Bernardo to avenge his friend’s death. It’s his loyalty to the Jets and love for Maria that tears him apart.

Their romance is playful and captivating and unravels on stage so naturally even Maria’s soft giggles are infectious and then when they sing – something special happens. Unsurprisingly, their rendition of Tonight and Somewhere gave me chills.

characters west side story on stage

Away, but not far from the romance, you have the gritty and slightly uncomfortable scenes – the racial slurs, the bar scene when the detective throws out the Puerto Ricans, the attempted assault on Anita, after which she reveals the lie to the Jets that seals Tony’s doom.

The set design has all been cleverly done. A large tainted and tattered American flag hangs in the back ground, a heap of rubbish lies on the floor, the rusty fences which separate the Jets and Sharks to begin with, move around the entire stage and become shop walls, basket ball courts, fighting cages.

fighting scene in west side story musical on stage

Elsewhere, Ellen Kane has given the choreography a shake up so while I didn’t get the massive dance number during America, (one of my favourite musical dance scenes ever) Anita (played by Carly Mercedes Dyer) and her girls still gave it a good amount of hip swinging, skirts twirling action to not leave me completely disappointed.

dancing on stage

Meanwhile, the fight scene was beautifully choreographed and was as aggressive as it was artistic and although we all knew what the outcome was going to be, I couldn’t help but hope for a different ending to the ill-fated rumble.

Undoubtedly, the loudest round of applause on the night went to the the Jets performances of ‘Gee Officer Krupke’ delivered in front of the red curtain. This light-hearted mockery of the officer was perfectly timed to lighten the drama that had just gone on beyond the curtains.

It’s all brilliantly done and I’m tempted to go see the whole thing again. Anyone fancy coming?

West Side Story is on at Curve until 11 Jan 2020.

Curve, 60 Rutland St, Leicester LE1 1SB.

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