A sensational new production of West Side Story comes to the Waterside Theatre next month (February).
Direct from a sell-out season in London the original show, with an unforgettable score by Bernstein and Sondheim, changed the face of musical theatre forever.
Based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and packed with unforgettable songs including Maria, Tonight, Somewhere, America and I Feel Pretty, this production is as vibrant and relevant as it ever was.
Director and choreographer Joey McKneely said: “The essence of the show is the seamlessness of the four elements - book, lyrics, music and choreography. It shows that a musical can be dramatic and deeply emotional. It was the first ensemble piece where the dancers are actually the principals in the story telling.”
The key difference between the original and this revival of West Side Story is the overall look of the production - the sets, costumes and lighting. Mr McKneely said this is meant to take the audience into a timeless era, one that is not a dated remake of the 1950s.
Speaking of his direction he said: “I have chosen to go as high energy and youth orientated as possible.
“To really create an atmosphere in which the violence of the youth is able to take the journey of racism and hate into a very natural realistic place.
“This has been my goal, for the audience to feel the emotion of the piece.
“The rest is original – music, lyrics, book and of course the amazing Jerome Robbins’ choreography.”
Mr McKneely said his only ambition for the production is for the audience to rediscover West Side Story again, as if for the first time. And to bring a new generation, who have never seen it before on stage, to the production.
With each tour there is a rehearsal period of three to four weeks.
Mr McKneely said: “Every day starts with a ballet class, a vocal warm-up, then eight hours of rehearsal. Plus an optional yoga class before all of this. It is very gruelling for some. These kids need to be athletes when it comes to the show. All of this helps them stay strong and not get injured.”
Mr McKneely said the choreography is an integral part of West Side Story.
He said: “I feel dance is everything to West Side Story. It has character, emotion, plot. If you removed the original choreography I feel it would not be West Side Story. It is where the story develops from.”
West Side Story is on at the Waterside from February 11-15. Tickets are available from the box office 0844 871 7607.