Tuesday, 1 October 2013

West Side Story Review

28th September 2013 @ Liverpool Empire

On Saturday afternoon I took a trip to one of my favourite places in Liverpool - the Empire Theatre. I absolutely love this place and over the years I have been making a more conscious effort to go and see more and more shows - much to the delight of my musical loving mum and the despair to my bank balance! Back in June when I was wracking my brains for a birthday gift idea for my mum, I found out West Side Story was to be playing for one week only! I snapped up two tickets and have oh so UN-patiently been waiting to see it!

The timeless American tale of two warring street gangs, so caught up in their own situations of poverty, racism and juvenile delinquency that you know from the start - this will be no fairy tale happy ending (a little heavy for a Saturday afternoon!). We all know the tragic love story of Juliet and her Romeo, and even though we all know how the story ends, West Side Story tells it in such a real and gritty way. Based in the 50s, it's warring gangs, trying to be grown up too quickly teenagers and the struggle between law enforcement and youths is as relevant to today's society as it was back when West Side Story first hit the stage over 50 years ago. As I was watching, I couldn't help but think back to stories I'd been reading in the previous days local paper about gang violence and street crime, it gave me goosebumps to think some things still haven't changed.

We went to see the matinee 2.30pm performance. I can't remember the last time I went to the theatre in the middle of the day - I loved it! It meant we could go shopping before the performance, grab a little something to eat and it was still light when we left - a big bonus for my mum. The theatre was packed and I was surprised to see so many young children racing up and down the aisles with their booster seats in hand - I didn't think it was a child friendly show, but it is giving an important message that if in the kids head young enough, they will hopefully carry with them into their teens. Though the show is about warring street gangs, it does not in any way glorify gang culture or being in a gang. There are quips and jokes and a humorous number called 'Gee, Officer Krupke' that look at our own perceptions of youth gang members and it really asks you to question your own thoughts on these kids. Because that's just what they are, kids, filled with ideas and notions that have been passed on to them via their parents and elders. The Jets are racist towards the Sharks because of what their parents have told them, they're being brought up to think the Puerto Rico immigrants are talking all their jobs, and the Sharks feel instantly disliked by the Caucasian Jets because their parents had been victimised when they first came to America - and they've passed these feelings onto their kids. Neither side is able to look past their differences and see they actually have a lot in common.

"Every one of you hates every one of us and we hate you right back"- West Side Story

West Side Story has always received high acclaim for its musical score and its varying dance styles. The cast are young and extremely talented. From Operatic highs to street dancing and ballet, it's all here. I was so moved by the all white costumed ballet sequence followed by a beautiful rendition of 'somewhere' that I could feel the tears prickling at the back of my eyes. And who can resist singing along when they cha cha around the stage in bright vibrant costumes to the infamous 'America'? Not me! The energy is felt from every corner of the stage and throws itself at you, you can't help but be carried along with the tale, the music, the choreography - it's what musical theatre is all about!

The show reaches it's inevitable end, a tear rolled down my cheek - before I knew it 2hrs 15mins, and a 15min interval had flown by and the curtain came down. The cast received raucous applause and cheers, the whole theatre was on it's feet applauding them. In that moment I always experience a shiver down my spine, a smile on my face, tingles all over - I can only imagine what those on stage must be feeling. Something like that, you can't put a price on!

West Side Story has finished it's time at the Liverpool Empire but be sure to check out when it's coming to a theatre near you. I would love to see this show again at it's home on Broadway or the West End! I am loving the fact that more and more musicals are breaking out from across the pond and the capital to tour the country. It gives little theatre lovers like me a more affordable and local chance to see them.

Luckily enough I've got some upcoming theatre trips planned to the Liverpool Empire so I won't have to wait too long to get my theatre fix!

Have you seen West Side Story?


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