Finally, Leonard Bernstein’s magnus opus has landed on Singapore! Works which are deemed as classics have always struck a strange (almost dissonant) chord with my nerves, that I was actually nervous rather than excited to watch the West Side Story myself.
Inspired by another classic work, Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story depicts a tragic love story of two American teenagers from different factions, set against a racial feud of 50’s upside New York. Back in 1957, West Side Story was actually considered an impossible production. In the original writer’s own words, even the casting was a huge headache, “We had to find people who can sing, dance and act equally well, as well as looking like teenagers!” Whilst the cast of the current production did not look exactly like teenagers, the singing was heavenly. In fact, for you Josh Groban fans out there, the lead male actor actually has an angelic voice like Groban!
West Side Story is most renowned for its brilliant music from the legendary maestro, Leonard Bernstein. However, I was particularly touched by the fragility of love portrayed in the musical. Works of art are always a microcosm of real life. Looking at how an innocent relationship between two young lovebirds getting torn asunder by a street racial feud, you can’t stop thinking how petty human beings can become. As the dead Tony was lifted out of sight in a mini funeral march, and Maria let out a final shriek of despair, Shakespeare’s pathetic undertone came to mind:
“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player.
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Let not my melancholy deter you, the music is amazing, and very well rendered through the current production. The singing of the cast is definitely worth crediting over and over again. Enjoy the music and satisfy yourself with some pondering!
PS: Make love, not war. Catch it now!
Photos courtesy of Johan Persson & Nilz Boehme