Bristol Hippodrome


West Side Story February 2014

  • West Side Story sold out at the Bristol Hippodrome - not a happy clappy show as it depetes a violence youth culture

Gang warfare broke out on stage at the Bristol Hippodrome this week when the gritty West Side Story opened at the city centre theatre to a rapturous reception.

This is the ultimate heartbreaker based on Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare and it saw both fists flying and dancers defying gravity in a show with lots of energy and big hit sounds.

But if you thinking of going along forget it as you won’t be able to get tickets for love or money as the award-winning musical which plays until Saturday, February 8, is completely sold-out.

The show has been playing to capacity houses throughout its one year UK tour and it also sold out when it played Paris, Sydney, Melbourne, Tokyo, Berlin, Madrid and Beijing.

The original play is a tragedy about two young star-crossed lovers who in death reconcile their feuding families.

The feuding Italian families become two warring New York City gangs - the white Jets led by Riff and the Puerto Rican Sharks, led by Bernardo.

Trouble escalates when Riff's best friend and former Jet gang member Tony meets Bernardo's younger sister Maria at a dance and the pair fall hopelessly in love.

When the Sharks and Jets plan a ‘rumble’ under the downtown highway, Maria sends Tony to try and stop the violence.

The set is basic with three storey-iron balustrades, black and white streetscapes projected onto the backdrop and stark lightening.

You know from the start it is going to end in tears and the performers gave it 

their all although sometimes it was difficult to distinguish between the youths spoiling for a fight while the dialogue with its Latin American lingo was difficult to follow in parts.

Last in Bristol starring in The Phantom of the Opera, Maria is played brilliantly by soprano Katie Hall who I was told had missed the matinee performance due to an ear infection.

Her love interest is West End performer Louis Maskell as Tony, the splendid Djalenga Scott as the sassy Anita and the equally talented Jack Wilcox plays Riff.

West Side Story director and choreographer Jerome Robbins based the show on a book by Arthur Laurents with music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.

The unforgettable score includes Maria, Tonight, Somewhere, America, I Feel Pretty and my favourite and a brief light-hearted moment Gee, Officer Krupke.

Some of its subject matter although not graphic was upsetting and topical.

This was illustrated so well this week when the news that the son of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is dating a non-Jewish Norwegian girl caused outrage in Israel and that London gangs are following American trends and expanding into the provinces.

Love across the divide – whether cultural, class or race - and young people getting into brutal territorial fights are tough but the simulated rape scene was hard to watch so although not a feel-good family show it is surprisingly must-see real life theatre.

Carol Deacon