WAAPA presents ‘West Side Story’

WAAPA's West Side StoryIt’s been a couple of weeks since the return of Hollywood A-Lister and alumnus Hugh Jackman to the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), but the buzz in the corridors is still palpable. However, WAAPA’s dedicated staff and students have knuckled back down to work and preparations are under way for the academy’s biggest theatre production to date – West Side Story, opening this Saturday, June 14 at The Regal Theatre in Subiaco.


West Side Story is a triumphant tale of love transcending language, time and place. While Manhattan’s west side rumbles with the clash of the Jets and Sharks, Maria and Tony seek a “Somewhere” their romance can thrive. In their revolutionary work that changed the course of the American musical, Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents brought their award-winning genius to the immortal story of star-crossed lovers caught in a turf war of rival ethnic gangs.


Now, 57 years after its debut rocked the theatre world, West Side Story is still celebrated for bravely addressing dark social issues whilst introducing sophisticated music and extended dance scenes. It’s now seen as a major turning point in theatre history, giving the musical a new and broader definition. The Grammy-winning score includes “Something’s Coming”, “Maria”, “America”, “Somewhere”, “Tonight”, “I Feel Pretty”, “Jet Song” and “Cool.”


In an interview with Rolling Stone after its premier, Bernstein said, “Everyone told us that West Side Story was an impossible project.” He referred to the difficult score and death scene at the end of the first act. Casting also proved difficult. They needed actors who were great dancers and had to look like teenagers. This is obviously not a problem with WAAPA’s production, featuring a huge ensemble cast of 38 of its acclaimed all-dancing, all-singing, effervescent Music Theatre students.


The 22-piece orchestra, consisting of classical, jazz and contemporary music students under the guidance of Music Director and Head of Music Theatre David King, will bring Bernstein’s beloved score to life in this spectacularly produced musical extravaganza that cannot be missed.


Director and Senior Lecturer for Music Theatre, Crispin Taylor, enthuses, “I know I say it every year, but this really is by the far the most epic production WAAPA has undertaken in its 34-year history. The fact that we are producing one of the all-time great musicals is just a bonus and has myself and the cast and crew thoroughly excited. We cannot wait to share this wonderful show with the public.”


WAAPA’s production is directed by Taylor (who’s also directed Thoroughly Modern Millie, Crazy For You and Anything Goes) and is choreographed by guest artist Lisa O’Dea, choreographic supervisor on Mary Poppins, hit ABC TV show Dance Academy, as well as We Will Rock You. Scenic design is by acclaimed designer Steve Nolan, and lighting design is by visiting artist and Helpmann Award-winner Mark Howatt (who’s designed for Cloudstreet, Sweeney Todd and Kura Tunga.)


For all ticketing and performance details, visit www.waapa.ecu.edu.au.


Photo: From left, William Groucutt (Tony), Patrick Whitbread (Riff), Lyndon Watts (Bernardo), Miranda Macpherson (Maria) and Suzie Melloy (Anita) in West Side Story. Photo by Donna Dee.