West Side Story may have premiered on Broadway in 1957 but the 60-year-old tale is in no way an antiquated one to be forgotten.
Set in 1950s New York, the musical follows the growing tension between rival street gangs the Jets and the Sharks, as romance blossoms between Tony, a Jet, and Maria, sister of the Shark’s leader.
Known as ‘Broadway’s Greatest Dance Musical’ by The Times, UK, the widely-acclaimed production has played over 1,500 shows in 100 cities. Just last week, the production returned to our shores after 11 years as the 18th stop on their current world tour.
The international production stars Marc Koeck as lead love-struck “Tony” and Natalie Ballenger as “Maria”. Joining them are Lance Hayes as “Riff”, leader of the Jets and Keely Beirne as “Anita”.
1) Show-stopping Dance Numbers
With original choreography by Jerome Robbins, West Side Story is packed with high-energy dance numbers.
Dancing to rhythms of mambo, rock ‘n’ roll and jazz, the cast bursts out into pirouettes, jumps and kicks during the 2.5-hour show on top of acting.
Breaking out into intense dance routines 8 times a week hasn’t been easy for Hayes who is heavily involved in impactful dance numbers “Jet Song”, “The Dance at The Gym”, “The Rumble”.
The musical actor, who joined the production for the first time, said: “It (the role) is mentally and physically exhausting… Acting takes the mental capacity and it takes it (energy) out of you every night… Physically, the dancing is non-stop. My (performance in) act 1 is start to finish dancing non-stop!”
2) Impressive Vocal Performance in “Maria”
Having admired the show’s famed number “Maria” since he began theatre studies, belting out the piece on stage has been a dream turned reality for Koeck who plays “Tony”.
The solo number, which showcases Koeck’s sweet yet strong tenor voice, is about Tony expressing his love for Maria.
“He (Tony) needs Maria in his life. We meet Tony and he is completely dissatisfied with life. He wants more and she is the answer to that.”, he explained.
Apart from his passionate vocal performance, Koeck hopes to create depth to his character in this production by portraying “Tony” as more playful, youthful and driven.
3) The Serenading Balcony Scene
Resembling the iconic balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet, the star-crossed lovers profess their love for one another in duet “Tonight“.
Accompanied by an ensemble of melodious sounds from the orchestra, the scene is known to be a fan favorite for its fantasy-like romance.
“They (Tony and Maria) sing goodnight, sleep well and when you dream, dream of me… It gives me goosebumps every time I think about it. It’s my favorite part of the show,” Koeck added.
Beyond the extravagant songs and dances, Ballenger believes West Side Story delivers a heartwarming message that audiences can feel a sentimental attachment to.
“Tony and Maria have put aside their differences, races, religions to come together and love and understand each other,” she said.
“I hope audiences can see Tony and Maria’s story and bring that to their own life.”
West Side Story is currently playing at Grand Theatre, MasterCard Theatres at Marina Bay Sands from September 13 to 30.