Review- West Side Story- Lunchbox Theatrical Productions


By Nicole Garbellini








West Side Story, one of the most acclaimed musicals of all time on Broadway, is now touring around the world, and it is currently showing at the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts. It is presented by Lunchbox Productions.



The Romeo and Juliet-inspired story remains a classic and, since its debut in 1957, the response from the public towards this musical is still going strong, especially for a musical that did not win any Tony Awards. One of the true strengths of this musical relies on the themes that are depicted in the story, such as the guns, poverty, violence against women and racism, which makes the show highly relatable. What America faced at that time is still encountered nowadays, and the fateful love affair between teenagers from rival New York gangs still remains as relevant as it was 60 years ago.



During a scorching summer in the Upper West Side, the boys of two gangs, the Jets and the Sharks, fight against one another for domination of the streets in the area. The first gang is made of sons of previous immigrants to America, who fight new arrivals from Puerto Rico. With the explosive notes of mambo, rock’n’roll and jazz, between one fight and another, Tony, one of the Jets, falls in love with the sister of the leader of the Sharks, Maria. Their love is compelling and destroyed shortly afterwards by the hatred of their rival peers.



The choreography was highly engaging;  the initial stage fight introduced the rivalry between the two gangs, setting the mood for what came afterwards. Everything was coordinated by the very clever use of the lights which became active part of the setting. It was certainly captivating to see how the lights reflected and determined the colours of the costumes. I particularly enjoyed the choice of white costumes for the actors in “Somewhere”, letting the lighting act like a magic wand that changed the tones as if in a fairy tale.



I also appreciated the more modern take of the dancing, even though the movements reflected the more classic ballet technique. West Side Story is a musical that requires a great knowledge of ballet, yet it was interesting to see how certain bits in the choreography were modernised – but never dulled.



The acting, from the leads to the minor roles, was full of energy and enthusiasm. The portrait of Tony played by Kevin Hack is solid and outstanding. The audience can feel sympathy for him and Maria when their love is real but destroyed by life events. I even felt sympathy for the Jets when they disclosed who they really were and they admitted their flaws in their personas.


That sympathy utterly fell through though when one of the Sharks girls gets raped. It’s something in the script that I personally wish wasn't there, as it completely changes the dynamics of the audience’s feelings for these misfits.



West Side Story plays until June 18. For more information about the show click here.


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