The all-singing, all-dancing re-working of Romeo & Juliet is set against a 1960s New York underbelly where rival gangs, the Jets and the Sharks run the streets and star crossed lovers Tony and Maria find love in the midst of a whole lot of hate.
Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s glorious music, under conductor, Ben Van Tienan, had the hairs on my back standing on end. The magnificent, soaring delivery of America, the Tonight quintet and the raucous music at the dance at the gym gave me shivers of delight.
Jerome Robbins’s original choreography was delivered with more energy than you could rattle a maraca at by a group of dancers headed by the superb Djanelnga Scott (Anita), Javier Cid, (Bernardo) and Jack Wilcox (Biff). The beautiful, balletic dream sequence accompanying Somewhere makes you wish these rival gangs could get along because you like them all so damn much!
But then we wouldn’t have the tragic story we all know and love, would we? At the hear of the story Katie Hill (who we last saw playing Christine in Phantom of the Opera at the Empire) and Dom Hudson (on understudy duty for Louis Maskell) gave us a very sweet Maria and Tony, whose love burns brightly, but is over too quick in the face of the hatred all around them.
If Hudson struggled a tiny bit with the very highest of notes, we can easily forgive him on account of how bloody lovable he is! Hill’s voice, as anyone who’s seen her knows, is pure and wonderful and you genuinely root for these two in the face of their ultimate doom.
This West Side Story is an absolute joy. Even with all the “Daddy-o”s and the 60s street lingo, the music and choreography still feel fresh as newly-popped daisies. It’s sure to be a sell out, so grab your tickets while you can and enjoy it in all it’s glory.
West Side Story runs at the Liverpool Empire from now until Saturday 28 September at the Liverpool Empire.
First of all let me just say that Phantom of the Opera is big. I mean really, really BIG.
As well as being the longest running musical in Broadway history with over 10,000 performances, it’s also the second longest running West End musical. With music by Andrew “The Lord” Lloyd-Webber and lyrics by Charles Hart (additional lyrics by Richard Stilgoe, no less) it has won a whole raft of awards and accolades from the public, if not always the critics.
Phantom has been around since 1986 and I’m a huge lover of musicals, but this was my first time seeing it. I’ve popped my Phantom cherry, if you like.
So is it worth the humongous run? The praise lavished on it? Well to me it certainly was. From the moment the enormous chandelier from the Opéra Populaire dropped dramatically over the audience and the magnificent orchestra (it sounded as though there were 90 of them!) started to play, I had tingles.
Telling the story of the mysterious Phantom and his love for the beautiful Christine Daaé, a singer at the Opéra Populaire, the show dazzles at every turn. From the stirring music and the sumptuous sets, which beautifully echo the Empire’s setting, to the lavish costumes and brilliant performances from the cast, Phantom of the Opera ticks all the “great musical” boxes.
I can’t heap enough praise on Katie Hall (a former I’d Do Anything contestant) for her wonderful Christine, whom she played so wonderfully – at times torn and terrified, yet filled with compassion. And last, but certainly not least, we were treated to an incredible Phantom by John Owen-Jones when Earl Carpenter and his understudy, Richard Woodford were sadly taken poorly. But what a treat for the audience to see the man who’s played the role longer than any other actor in the show’s history don the mask.
Hall and Owen-Jones have singing voices to die for; they were great leads and their voices went together perfectly. I’m sure Earl Carpenter can’t wait to get back to work to show off his acting chops in the role.
If you like your musicals with a big old score – stirring strings and crashing cymbals, big booming numbers and slow soft ones – this is for you. It’s a testament to the show’s popularity that I was surrounded by grown men and women unashamedly and unselfconsciously belting out the songs with great gusto. This is a show that’s big, bold and lavish. It’s also hugely entertaining. Get down there while you can.
Phantom of the Opera is on at the Liverpool Empire from now until 9th March. Check out the Empire’s website for tickets.