West Side Story Memories

West Side Story Memories

The best theatre production that I have ever seen has to be the South African production of West Side Story. I saw the play in August 2015 at the Artscape Opera House. What an amazing venue! South Africa needs more theatres of this size and with this type of infrastructure so that amazing plays such as these are able to tour the country. We have such amazing talent in SA but we have limited means of displaying that talent.

Inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, the tale is set in the Upper West Side neighbourhood in New York City in the mid-1950s. The musical explores the rivalry between the Jets and the Sharks, two street gangs of different backgrounds. The members of the Sharks are taunted by the Jets. The young protagonist, Tony, a former member of the Jets and best friend of the gang leader, Riff, falls in love with Maria, the sister of Bernardo, the leader of the Sharks. The sophisticated music, extended dance scenes, and the focus on social conflict marked a turning point in American musical theatre. – West Side Story

The show was a Fugard Theatre production which is another theatre with great productions. I was blown away by the actors and actresses. They were so wonderful in their roles and that night I heard some of the greatest live singing voices ever. My favourite songs were America, I Feel Pretty, and Officer Krupke.

The theatre itself was spectacular. The opera house is huge and the stage has a lot of surprises. The props and costumes were beautiful but the stage itself moved around a lot.

  • Part of the stage that rose up from the ground level so that it looked like the stage had 2 levels
  • There was a section of the stage that rotated while people stood still (during a dance scene, it was lovely)
  • A whole set (the dress shop) would “slide” out from the right of the stage
  • There was a huge ‘Drug Store’ sign that would come down from the ceiling with lots of lights on it
  • During the performance of “Tonight” there were what looked like hundreds of fairy lights coming down from the ceiling and moving about
  • There were many more stage highlights such as a real car and stairways on both sides of the stage

If I could see this play again then I would! It was really a bucket list kind of thing. The play finished up in Cape Town this august and will go to Johannesburg in 2017 at the Mandela Theatre. They have to wait so long to see it but it will be so worth it.