It’s possibly one of the most popular musicals ever, which may be why it keeps on coming around. West Side Story is currently at Sheffield’s Lyceum, in a production which starts as it means to go on, with high levels of energy and emotion.
The antipathy between Puerto Rican and white American gangs is powerfully portrayed right from the opening scene. The Sharks and Jets dance up a storm, with plenty of athletic stylised fighting.
The girls are pretty feisty too, especially Anita (Djalenga Scott), the girl who loves to be in America. And there are individual characters in the ensemble: belligerent Diesel (Matthew Croke), mild-mannered but ultimately desperate Chino (Nico Wirachman), and especially fierce but vulnerable tomboy Anybody’s (Charlie Cameron).
There’s a raw edge to the ensemble singing, which contrasts well with the more mellifluous tones of Tony and Maria, the tragic Romeo and Juliet figures in this version of the most famous love story in the English language. There’s undoubted chemistry between Louis Maskell and Katie Hall, and her glorious soprano blends well with his rich baritone.
The downbeat ending is exactly right; racial tension isn’t ended by personal tragedy, after all.
It runs till Saturday, July 12.