West Side Story

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West Side Story is an American musical with a book by Arthur Laurents [1], music by Leonard Bernstein [2], lyrics by Stephen Sondheim [3] and co-written by Bernstein, and conception and choreography by Jerome Robbins [4].

The original text

Inspired by William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet, with the action set in Manhattan's West Side/Hell's Kitchen in the mid-1950s. The musical utilizes sophisticated contemporary music and extended dance scenes to explore the love affair between Tony and Maria, in the context of the rivalry between the Jets and the Sharks, two teenage street gangs of different ethnic backgrounds.

First produced on Broadway in 1957, directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins.

Translations and adaptations

Filmed in 1961 by Robert Wise, a version that captured world attention and made the piece an international phenomenon[5], going on to be nominated for eleven Academy Awards and winning ten, including Best Picture.

A second film version was released in 2021, directed and co-produced by Steven Spielberg from a screenplay by Tony Kushner.[6]

Performance history in South Africa

1970: The first stage production in South Africa produced and choreographed by Kip Andrews for the Hymie Udwin's Academy Theatre at the Alexander Theatre. It starred Michael Harrison, Richard Fox, Patricia Arnell, Lynton Burnes, Richard Loring, Delia Sainsbury, Keith Galloway, Graham Clarke, John Ryan, Patrick McCabe, Ross Davies, Elaine Price, Ray Rosse, Barry Burgess, Gary Kidd, Anthony Pannell, Brian Harding-Madge, Dale Cutts, Dolores Brochin, Jill Osborn, Sally Flemington, Lucille Henderson, Clive Belman, Kevin Basel, Joey Wishnia, Roselle Dare, Patricia Mirkin, Helen Talias, Buddy Leahy, Francis Alford, Susan Orpen while Anthony Farmer did the set design and Paul Jannsen was the stage director. Wendy de la Harpe was the assistant choreographer and Neil Feiling the Musical Director. It eventually moved to the Empire Theatre and then to Cape Town.

1995/96: Staged by PACT Opera and CAPAB, opening on 27 November 1995 in the State Theatre in Pretoria and on 25 January 1996 in the Nico Malan Opera House in Cape Town, directed and choreograped by Alan Johnson (reproducing Jerome Robbins's original Broadway direction and choreography), with Dale Cutts (Lt Schrank), Neville Thomas (Off. Krupke), Peter Holden (Gladhand), Charles Stodel (Doc), Edward Baker-Duly (Riff), Robert Finlayson/Luciano Zuppa (Tony), Duncan Royce (Action), Gadi Schor (A-rab), David Bloch (Baby John), Bryan Mynhardt (Snowboy), Timothy Walton (Big Deal), Kenneth Robinson (Diesel), Kirsten Pollachi (Anybody's), Vanessa Schneider (Graziella), Dionne Lochner (Velma), Fiona Morrison-Zerle (Minnie), Liezel van der Merwe (Clarice), Joseph Clark (Bernardo), Juanita Kruger/Natalie Lotkin (Maria), Samantha Peo (Anita), Deon Bisschoff (Chino), Somizi Mhlongo (Indio), Damyan Robinson (Anxious), Patrick Peterson (Luis), Lindani Nkosi (Nibbles), Darryl Evans (Toro), Lynsey Shmukler (Rosalia), Amor Vittone (Consuela), Leslie-Ann Mitchel (Estella), Gina Shmukler (Francisca) and others. Presented by the Playhouse Company in association with PACT Opera and CAPAB in 1996.

2013: The Playhouse Company in the Opera Theatre, Durban, from 22 November to 29 December, directed by Ralph Lawson,

2015: Produced by Eric Abraham and the Fugard Theatre at ArtsCape in July and August, directed by Matthew Wild, with musical direction by Charl-Johan Lingenfelder and choreography by Louisa Talbot, a full cast of 40 and accompanied by the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra. The leading cast members included Jonathan Roxmouth, Lynelle Kenned, Bianca le Grange, Christopher Jaftha, and Daniel Buys.

2017: A repeat production by Eric Abraham and the Fugard Theatre played at the Mandela Theatre (in the Joburg Theatre) from 24 January to 5 March 2017.]] Once again directed by Matthew Wild, with musical direction by Charl-Johan Lingenfelder and choreography by Louisa Talbot. Many fof the cast of 40 reprised their roles, including the leads Jonathan Roxmouth, Lynelle Kenned, Filipa van Eck, Bianca le Grange, Christopher Jaftha, Grant Almirall and Daniel Buys.

2018: Another repeat production of the Eric Abraham and Fugard Theatre West Side Story in the Opera House at Artscape, this time with the American Kevin Hack as "Tony", Lynelle Kenned as "Maria", Daniel Mpilo Richards as "Bernardo" (leader of "the Sharks").









West Side Story theatre programme, 1970/1971.

PACT Opera theatre programme, 1995.

Burger, 13 March 2018.

Artslink.co.za <news0115@artslink.co.za>


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