West Side Story, a production by Eric Abraham and the Fugard Theatre, exploded onto the Cape Town stage in the winter of 2015, onto the Joburg scene in early 2017 and, due to overwhelming demand, will return to the Artscape Opera House stage for one final season in South Africa.
The grand-scale musical, known globally for an unforgettable score that marries stirring music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, retells William Shakespeare’s tragic and beautiful love story Romeo and Juliet, and is set in New York City’s Upper West Side in the late 1950s. It follows the heartbreaking, short-lived romance between two young and idealistic lovers, Tony and Maria, who are caught between two warring street gangs, the Jets and the Sharks.
West Side Story brings together the same award-winning core creative team behind other superb Fugard Theatre productions like The Rocky Horror Show, Cabaret and Funny Girl. Matthew Wild is director, Charl-Johan Lingenfelder is musical director and conductor, and Louisa Talbot is the choreographer, with Grant van Ster (Calling Me Home, Aunty Merle the Musical) as resident choreographer. With a full orchestra and an outstanding cast of 40, featuring iconic songs such as ‘Something’s Coming’, ‘Maria’, ‘I Feel Pretty’ and ’Tonight’, West Side Story is once again bound to sweep Capetonians off their feet.
The Fugard Theatre’s production has garnered rave reviews from its prior seasons in Cape Town and Johannesburg, some of which include ‘every bit as brilliant as any international production, if not better’ (Daily Maverick), ‘Sets new standards for local grand-scale musicals’ (Die Beeld) and ‘raises the bar for musical theatre internationally’ (Bizcommunity).
This season, West Side Story brings together the best local talent and welcomes an international star to the cast: The exceptional Lynelle Kenned (Orpheus in Africa, Blood Brothers, Showboat) will reprise the role of Maria for which she won the Fleur du Cap for Best Actress in a Musical in 2016. Tony, will be played by US-born actor Kevin Hack, who has performed the role almost 400 times and recently completed the international tour playing the role in the 60th-anniversary international tour of Michael Brenner’s production of West Side Story. His other hit show credits include Les Misérables, Sweeney Todd, Catch Me If You Can: The Musical and The Civil War.
Other principal cast members reprising their roles are songstress Bianca Le Grange (Blood Brothers, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat) as Anita, Stephen Jubber (Aunty Merle the Musical, Annie, Mamma Mia!) as Riff, leader of the Jets gang, and Sven-Eric Müller (Funny Girl, Cabaret) as Diesel. Craig Urbani (Rock of Ages, The Sound of Music, Isidingo) returns as Shrank, the role he performed in the Johannesburg season in early 2017, with Richard Lothian (The Play That Goes Wrong) once again playing Officer Krupke. Daniel Richards (Aunty Merle the Musical, State Fracture, Pay Back the Curry) re-joins the cast as Bernardo and James Borthwick (Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Rhythm City, Evita) will take the role of Doc. Michael Fullard (Priscilla Queen of the Desert), Jonathan Raath (Priscilla Queen of the Desert), Cameron Botha (Funny Girl, Pinocchio, Sweeney Todd), Benton-Steele Botes (69 For your (Adult) Eyes Only), Lee van der Merwe (Immortal), Gemma Trehearn (Sacred Space), Michèle Trobe (Funny Girl), Jenna Robinson-Child (Cabaret), Brittané van Loggerenberg (A Spartacus of Africa), Clint Lesch (Calling Me Home), Duane Williams (7de Laan), Thami Njoko (Honey 3: Dare To Dance), Shaun Oelf (Fishers of Hope), Tevin Wiener (Honey 3: Dare to Dance), Nurit Graff (Saturday Night Fever), Claire Boswell (Singin’ in the Rain), Hardy Keeve (4) and Kirsten Rossiter (Peter Pan), Chloe Perling (Cabaret), Kirsty Ndawo (Chicago), Ernestine Stuurman (Tiger Bay), Sarah Ann van der Merwe (Pinocchio), Julio Jantjies (A Spartacus of Africa), Logan Timbre (Priscilla Queen of the Desert) and Lesego van Niekerk (African Footprint) complete the talented cast.
West Side Story is at the Artscape Opera House from 7 March. Performances are from Tuesdays to Fridays at 20:00, on Saturdays at 16:00 and 20:00 and on Sundays at 14:00 and 18:00.
Tickets from R150 to R470 are available through Artscape on 021 421 7695, Computicket on 0861 915 8000 and any Shoprite or Checkers outlets. Discounts for Friends of the Fugard and tickets for the general public are also available via the Fugard Theatre box office on 021 461 4554.