Yes, I welcome any excuse to watch my West Side Story DVD. I feel pretty imagining someone singing about me the way Tony sings about Maria. Ahhhhhhhh. The colors. The dancing. The singing. The feel-good energy. I would never have expected the Leipzig Ballet to be doing something based on this Broadway sensation.
But why not? After all, it was based on Romeo and Juliet. The original takes place in a 1950s blue collar Upper West Side New York neighborhood fraught with rival gangs from different ethnic groups. With Legida demonstrations planned ’til the end of the year, I can see where the inspiration may have come from. I’m a bit ashamed to admit that I’ve stopped going to the counter protests. It’s not that I don’t hold the cause dear, it’s that I feel like it’s just kind of Nazis and Antifas now and I don’t see combat as a way to create change. But then, the main character in West Side Story, Tony, feels the same way. He’s ready to stop following the crowd and approach things in a new way.
Art can promote change. The neighborhood in question was cleared to create the Lincoln Center. Of course creating art and performance spaces where the conflicts exist is not the standard way to end the problem. Exposing the conflicts for what they are is the best way and West Side Story, just like Romeo and Juliet, does that. A young man and young woman fall in love. They don’t see that they are from opposing sides. They only see love. That’s what anyone can see if they look past the stereotypes.
To be honest, I was a little surprised at how close they stayed to the original. I hadn’t realized it was a collaboration between Leipzig Opera and Leipzig Ballet. I think they should have promoted it in a different way. That said, I have to say the performances were outstanding, especially Myrthes Monteiro as Maria. She was the total package. The orchestra did an amazing job of playing the wide spectrum of music composed by Leonard Bernstein. The set was simple, yet effective. I was worried a couple of times Maria would fall off the beam that kept moving. Well done!
I am still asking myself what I think of the Opera and Ballet doing a Broadway musical. I am yet to come to a concrete conclusion. What I can say is it is a quality production with everyone involved doing very professional work. The original choreography by Jerome Robbins was complex and exciting. He was a active choreographer and created over 60 ballets in addition to his work on Broadway. Leipzig Ballet’s Mario Schröder kept his legacy, adding to it his language. He brought it into 2015. I was very happy to see him and his dancers stretching themselves. Many had speaking parts and it was good to hear them sing. I hope their experience was enriching. Unfortunately for me, there were many times I felt the dancing eclipsed.
You can check it out for yourself this week.
1 July 11:00 am
2, 3 July 7:30 pm
4 July 7:00 pm
5 July 6:00 pm
More information at http://www.oper-leipzig.de/en/programm/leipziger-ballett-werkstatt/55167.