Westside Story at the Jubilee - Oh, yeah, it's Romeo & Juliet... It doesn't end happy...

Last Saturday night we took in Westside Story at the Jubilee Auditorium as the final show in the Broadway Across Canada season.  Our usual seat mates had very recently welcomed a new baby to their home, so my brother and his fiancée joined us instead.  It was a real family affair as my mother, 2 sister-in-laws and my niece also attended that night, so we all went to Chianti's for an excellent dinner ahead of time and then settled in to our respective seats for the show.

I had never seen the show before outside snippets here and there on TV from the film version.  I had been in a musical revue a couple of decades ago where we did some numbers from the show so I was familiar with the score to some degree.  I knew the basis of the story, but was excited to see it on stage. The show was pretty good. The dancing was excellent and was the strongest part overall.  I liked how the gang fighting is expressed through dance, and they certainly had the skills to make it work. The singing was also strong.  I did have some problems understanding the lyrics.  Some had been changed to Spanish as this was the reboot version, but some of the challenge was the speed of execution and I think a deficiency in the sound balance with the mics. You'd expect better quality in that space, especially considering the ticket price.  Also, we went towards the end of the run, so they'd have had a few shows to get the mix right, but they didn't.  I did however, really like Maria (Mary Joanna Grisso) both vocally and acting-wise. Anita (Michelle Alves) was a powerhouse performer, but I had the most trouble with her mic so I felt like I wasn't getting the full performance.

My biggest criticism, however, was that it didn't always seem like they were all in the same world.  Stylistically some people felt grounded in the late 1950's, while some seemed to be a bit modern.  Also, the male gang members all seemed to meld into one beyond the leads.  It would have been nice to see some more distinct characterization.

Oh well, next year we will be seeing The Book of Mormon and Flashdance: the Musical.  It should be an interesting contrast.

The other thing that I wanted to mention was that as I was watching I started thinking about the parallels to Romeo & Juliet.  It is based on the Shakespeare play, so part of my brain went into comparison mode.  It did make me more excited to see Romeo and Juliet in April at the Citadel.  It will be cool to see them so close together and compare.


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