West Side Story – UCLU Musical Theatre

West Side Story – UCLU Musical Theatre

Grace Nalty follows the whirlwind love story that is West Side Story

This terms star showing at the Shaw Theatre is the amazing West Side Story, a love story tainted by gang rivalry and violence, inspired by Romeo and Juliet. As usual, Musical Theatre presents an extremely talented cast that readily and convincingly adopted their characters. The show is set in West New York, where rival gangs, the Jets and the Puerto Rican Sharks, are locked in rivalry. But when former Jet Tony falls in love with Maria, the sister of head Shark Bernando, the rivalry heats up and ends in dire consequences.

Anyone who knows West Side Story knows that it is a musical which is heavily based around dance, and this is a challenged that the cast took on with full force. Whilst the cast may not be professionally trained dancers, the level of effort was obvious and made for pleasant viewing. The show was full of dynamic dance scenes throughout, with the large group ones being well thought out and entertaining, accompanied by a well played score by the orchestra.

The stage was thoughtfully presented, with large American advertising posters hovering above a simple brick building which was creatively utilised in every scene.

William Quinn and Suriyah Rashid, who play Tony and Maria, fantastically fulfilled their challenging character roles within the comically unrealistic storyline. Of course, being based on Romeo and Juliet there is always going to be an aura of humour in the very speed at which Tony and Maria fall in love, with many in the audience giggling at the overwrought proclamations of ‘I love you’ being sung from the balcony. This comic effect, despite whether it was intended or not, was uplifting for the audience and bought an air of lightness to the heavy, death-orientated, plot.

There was a standout performance from Pilar Martin-Hernandez, who played Bernando’s girlfriend Anita, with her sassy character and strong vocals throughout, especially on the song America. All the Shark girls were amazing dancers who really fulfilled their Latin American characters, all of them hosting a perfect accent. I wish the same could be said for their American counterparts – the Jets and other American characters slipped in and out of American drawls throughout, which wasn’t at all detrimental but definitely noticeable.

The venue itself is a fantastic substitute for the Bloomsbury and was packed out on the first night! If you fancy beating the post-reading week blues, then this show is a definite go see. It’s pretty intense spectacle that is set to please. Book your tickets now to get a space.

★★ ★ ★ ☆

See West Side Story at Shaw Theatre, Euston Road between until the 26th February.

Photo credit: Dante Kim

Grace Nalty