Next year is shaping up to be Opera Australia's big year of West Side Story. Not only is the company presenting a massive outdoor production in Sydney as part of its annual Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour, it's just announced a production for theatres in both Melbourne and Sydney. That's a big year for singing and dancing youth gangs.
Melbourne has seen this production before: it's directed by Tony nominee Joey McKneely and played an Australian tour back in 2010. It's a fairly faithful take on the show, using all of Jerome Robbins' original Broadway choreography.
For those who've somehow never seen West Side Story, it's a 1950s musical take on Romeo and Juliet with music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by Arthur Laurents. Instead of warring families, it features warring – if not too fearsome – New York City gangs. The score features songs like 'Tonight', 'Maria', 'America', 'Something's Coming' and 'Somewhere'.
No casting has been announced at this point, but unlike the Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour production, Opera Australia is holding auditions to find the next Tony and Maria. Opera Australia has already come under significant criticism for casting a caucasian performer as the Puerto Rican Maria in that production, and has been accused of white-washing the musical. Let's hope they cast appropriately this time.
West Side Story will play the Arts Centre Melbourne from April 6 to 28. Join the waitlist for tickets.