Thursday, February 20, 2020





Directed by Ivo van Hove
Choreographed by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker

Book by Arthur Laurents; Based on a Conception by Jerome Robbins; Music by Leonard Bernstein; Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim; 

Entire Original Production Directed and Choreographed by Jerome Robbins

The Short Review: DON'T MISS IT!

Slightly longer review:

The score, by Leonard Bernstein is, alone, more than enough reason to see (and hear!) the show.

The dancing, choreographed by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker is, alone, more than enough reason to see the show.

The direction, by Ivo Van Hove, together with the scenic and lighting design by Jan Versweyveld is, alone, more than enough reason to see the show.

And the basic idea of the show, traced back to Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is, also, more than enough reason to see the show.

Finally, with all those spectacular elements put together, the show is AMAZING! There are few times in life when one finds so much energy, and pleasure, and tragedy, and brilliance in less than two hours.

Dharon E. Jones and the cast of WEST SIDE STORY 2020
Photo by Jan Versweyveld.

That said, here are some other thoughts, which include some hints for enjoying the show, as well as some spoilers:

  • The action of West Side Story arises from the conflict of two gangs -- the resident black Jets, and the newly arrived Puerto Rican Sharks. 
  • but it is not always easy, in the heat of dancing, fighting action, to understand who is who, or which is which. 
  • In the first photo below, the color theme of the Sharks is reddish, and of the Jets bluish, which helps, but in the photo below that it is much less clear.
  • Similarly, the Jets are mostly dark skinned, and the Sharks lighter skinned, but in both pictures below, it is not true of everyone.
  • In fact Tony is one of the least Jet-like members of the Jets, and Maria one of the least Shark-like Sharks.
  • Is this the point?

Shereen Pimentel, Isaac Powell, 
and the cast of WEST SIDE STORY 2020
Photos by Jan Versweyveld
  • I have little knowledge of dance. For me, the difference in style of the dancing of the Jets and the Sharks was too subtle to be understood as truly significant.

  • As in Rome and Juliet, the initial meeting of the two young lovers, here Tony and Maria, must be instantaneous and spectacular love at first sight.  Although Shereen Pimentel and Isaac Powell, as performers, convey throughout the play a convincing bond, and they sing together beautifully, at first they seem like an unlikely couple, (in addition to the feeling described above, that neither is a spot-on archetype of their group).

A note about seating: Some very significant events in the play happen on the floor. It is nice to be very close to the stage, because you feel connected to the actors. (In fact, when the action happens in the rooms behind the wall, and both the actors and their video images are visible, it is the video that seems more real, because the actors seem so small in comparison.) Nevertheless, for at least the first rows of seats in the orchestra, the stage is some inches above eye level; so it may be advantageous to sit in the mezzanine.

A note about the show: The show runs less than 2 hours.  There is no intermission.  There is no late seating!

Another note: Steven Spielberg, completely independent of the Broadway production, will release a filmed version of West Side Story, expected in December, 2020.


The story is a tragedy caused by unnecessary and terrible tribalism and hate. 

(Spoiler: Every time I see Romeo & Juliet, I keep hoping that this time, they will find a way to prevent the tragedy. 

In fact, there have been adaptations --  with a bad reputation -- versions which have a more happy ending. In West Side Story, the end is somewhat altered, but much tragedy remains.)

The story was a tragedy caused by hate 400 years ago when Shakespeare wrote Romeo & Juliet; and it is still a tragedy; and there is still tribal hate today.  

In West Side Story, the story just ends, there is no moral explicitly attached. Everyone must take away their own take-away. Shakespeare, however, gave the Prince a closing coda, in part blaming himself, the man in charge:


Where be these enemies? Capulet! Montague!
See: What a scourge is laid upon your hate,
That heaven finds means to kill your joys with love.

And I, for winking at your discords, too
Have lost a brace of kinsmen: 

all are punish'd.


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