REVIEW: West Side Story (Curve) ★★★★

Nikolai Foster delivers once again with Curve’s Christmas performance of West Side Story.

This musical phenomenon, inspired by Shakespeare’s iconic Romeo and Juliet, is now approaching its sapphire anniversary at Curve. Regardless, the theatre’s take on this classic story is as raw and dynamic as it was the first day it opened. Equally fresh are the thematic concerns at the heart of West Side Story. Threads of gang warfare, racism, immigration and social exclusion are woven together to create a familiar picture that still makes for poignant viewing to this day. At the centre of it all is the story of Maria and her Tony: two naïve lovers at the eye of an intensifying storm. After spotting each other at a dance, Maria and Tony soon declare their undying love and innate desperation to be together, in spite of the forces that drive them apart. The feuding families of Romeo and Juliet become two warring New York City gangs – the white Jets led by Riff (Ronan Burns) and the Puerto Rican Sharks, led by Bernado (Jonathan Hemosa-Lopez) The casting throughout this production was absolutely spot on. The chemistry between Jamie Muscato (Tony) and Adriana Ivelisse (Maria) is tangible and together they depict an authentic portrayal of love. Muscato is also fantastic in the role of Tony. A wonderful mix of naïve, strong, vulnerable and romantic, he stands tall as our leading man and delivers powerful vocals throughout.

In some of the opening numbers, it felt as though Ivelisse was vocally holding back. Contending with songs that are almost operatic, her head voice was noticeably weaker than her chest voice in act one—although beautiful nonetheless. But by the end of act two, she was much more at ease and her duet with Anita, played by Carly Mercedes Dyer, was simply phenomenal. ‘Gee, Officer Krupke’ was by far the most powerful performance of the night, receiving rapturous applause at the end.

Bernstein’s score is the real star of the show, of course, played by an orchestra worthy of the task at hand. Ellen Kane’s electrifying and exhilarating choreography perfectly reinforced and bolsters Jerome Robbins’ original work, demonstrating once and for all, ‘if it ain’t broke…’.

It was a capitivating show, though arguably not one of Foster’s most powerful productions. There were certain aspects that felt a bit lacklustre at times, and some of the larger ensemble numbers fell short of blowing me away. Nevertheless, Curve has pulled off yet another highly enjoyable performance that makes for a truly delightful evening. Get your tickets booked, because this show is an absolute must-see for families this Christmas.

Reviewed by Rosie Bambury
Photo: Ellie Kurttz

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