Wednesday, 03 September 2014
West Side Story | Sydney Symphony
Written by Penny Spirou   
Saturday, 28 January 2012 11:29

The 50 year anniversary of West Side Story is celebrated in the most magnificent style. The projector in the Concert Hall of the Opera House lights up with a visually stunning, restored, high-definition print of the film (with thanks to MGM) and the Sydney Symphony brings new life to the orchestral accompaniment. The entire film is screened as the Symphony provides the music, onstage, just below the projector screen. For lovers of the musical, nostalgic for a time long-lost, this is an amazing experience.

With its success on screen and stage (still being performed today across the globe), it is fair to say that West Side Story is a classic musical. However, it isn’t your typical fairytale with a happy ending. It is real, gritty and deeply sad, confirmed by the sniffles I heard from an audience member behind me. Yet there are spectacular musical numbers that help ever so slightly to disconnect from the issues that plague this western world, even today. Numbers including ‘Maria’, ‘Tonight’ and ‘I Feel Pretty’ had audience members giggling and whispering as ‘Dance and the Gym’ and ‘America’ got everyone clapping and cheering.

The Sydney Symphony have produced memorable performances like this before, most notably with their screening of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, which was so incredibly popular that they’re running The Two Towers mid-year. It’s a great idea, as it gives a different breed of audience the opportunity to really enjoy and appreciate the efforts of the Symphony to produce such a breath-taking sound.

What is even more impressive is the skill required not only to keep in time with each other, but to keep in time with the evolving story on the screen. Conductor David Newman, in his debut Australian appearance, leads the way and synchronises his orchestra to the on-screen action. With every click, gestured by the Jets and every pirouette, signalled by the Sharks, the Sydney Symphony orchestra intensify each movement, lyric and line of dialogue in this blockbuster musical.

With direction by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins, choreography by Jerome Robbins, composition by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, West Side Story is in a class all of its own. And seeing this on the big screen for the first time, no later than five decades after its initial release, makes me realise it’s never too late for you to fall in love with this musical too.


The Sydney Symphony presents
West Side Story
Part of the Sydney Festival 2012

Conducted by
David Newman

Venue: Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House
Dates: January 27-28, 2012
Tickets: $54 – $115
Bookings: www.sydneyoperahouse.com, 02 9250 7777

A Robert Wise Production

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