West Side Story in Manila Will Make You Do the Mambo in Your Seat

One of the most timeless romances is that of Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet in the William Shakespeare tragedy Romeo and Juliet. The sad tale of the star-crossed lovers is so universal that it has been referenced and adapted countless of times. One of the most enduring adaptations is the musical West Side Story, which is currently in Manila for an international tour.

The musical is set in 1950’s New York and follows two rival gangs of different ethnicities. At the core of the musical is the dangerous romance between Tony, a former member of the Jets, and Maria, the sister of Bernardo, the leader of rival gang Sharks.

The story was beautifully captured in the stylized musical, which was brought to life by the classic songs and the fiery choreography. Stephen Sondheim’s score was beautifully written to reflect the budding romance between Tony and Maria, as well as the class struggles between the white members of the Jets and the Puerto Rican members of the Sharks. The mixture of American jazz, and classical and Latin American music made for an exciting evening that will make you do the mambo in your seat.

Kevin Hack shone as Tony, his commanding voice taking us along on his journey of romance with Maria. He sang “Maria” and “One Heart, One Mind” so passionately that you could feel his emotions in every line. He is complemented by Jenna Burns as Maria, the young and innocent girl who falls for Tony. Her voice had the sweet and hopeful vulnerability perfect for an immigrant fresh in the USA.

The cast did an excellent job in the voice department and my favorite numbers are the same as my favorites in the 1961 film adaptation. Bernardo’s lover Anita’s performance of “America” was just as sensual, Maria’s rendition of “I Feel Pretty” was pure, and the Jets’ “Gee, Officer Krupke” was still funny and catchy.

West Side Story’s true highlight was the choreography, and it’s not surprising considering it was headed by Joey McKneely, a former student of Jerome Robbins, who developed the choreography in the Broadway musical. The dancing was spectacular and I was immediately drawn towards the blazing movements of the Puerto Ricans, who danced with abandon during “America” and “The Dance at the Gym.” Waldemar Quinones-Villanueva as Bernardo and Keely Beirne as Anita were exquisite, moving with such intensity that it will literally take your breath away.

There’s plenty to love in the Manila run of West Side Story, but at its heart is the story of Tony and Maria, two star-crossed lovers who didn’t let a rivalry and racial differences stop them. With everything that’s going on in the world today, it’s a timely watch. And it’s an exciting one.


This story is in partnership with Concertus Manila. West Side Story in Manila is made possible thanks to Lunchbox Theatrical Productions and Concertus Manila, and is presented by Globe LIVE. Shows are from August 10 to 27, with Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday shows at 8PM, and Saturday and Sunday shows at 3PM and 8PM. For tickets, visit www.ticketworld.com.ph. For more information on Lunchbox Productions and Concertus Manila, visit www.lunchbox-productions.com and Concertus Manila on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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