[Theatre] : Experiencing A Pop Culture Phenomenon - West Side Story

West Side Story. For years I have been picking up references to this play in books, TV shows, and movies. Just like The Lion King, it was one of those pop culture things that I just knew about, without actually knowing any detail. It's that Romeo and Juliet adaptation - the one with the song about 'feeling pretty'. Right?

When I saw that a local production of the play would be staged at the Artscape Opera House, I jumped at the chance to finally put all the fragments I had in my mind together. Early reviews already promised a spectacular show, with Jonathan Roxmouth's version of Tony getting very high praise. I was also keen to see the set design: the choices directors make when trying to bring the scenes to life are always interesting.


From the first scene to the last, the music of the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra gave an ambience to the play. While it would be easy for a performer to be overpowered by a full orchestra, Bianca le Grange (Anita) , Filipa van Eck (Maria) and Roxmouth were more than equal to the task, carrying the songs beautifully.

Roxmouth and van Eck played the two ill-fated lovers with dedication and honesty. When they were on stage, I was there with them - on the streets of New York. Their performance of "Tonight" was truly magnificent; the duet was further enhanced by the perfect lighting which set the scene. It was as if I were standing on a balcony across from the couple's building, watching them on a starry night. I'll just say it: it was romantic.

Jesse Kramer
The choreography of the ensemble scenes, at the dance and the rumble, was a delight to watch. In a type of dance of their own, the various moving set pieces - the staircases, the walls and the floor that became a roof - glided together and broke apart seamlessly. It offered another layer of visual interest: the eye was never quite sure where to move next.

The production was enthralling. There will always be something arresting about sitting in a theatre and watching actors weave vibrant storylines using little more than their voices and their bodies. I could watch West Side Story at least twice more, and I would probably find something new to enjoy about it.

It is running until 23 August 2015 - book while there is still a chance!


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