Acclaimed by some as “the world’s greatest musical”, West Side Story finally arrives in Singapore as one of its last legs in the international world tour. The production will show at the MasterCard Theatres in Marina Bay Sands until September 30, before moving on to Bangkok, Paris, Shanghai, the Netherlands, and finally Germany.
A tumultuous love story inspired by Shakespeare’s classic Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story plays out on the streets of 1950s New York, as two teenage gangs fight for their place in the world. More than just a romance, the story touches on themes like teenage violence and racial discrimination, which continues to be relevant today.
Wondering if it’s worth a trip to the theatre? Here are seven surprising facts about the musical.
Director and choreographer Joey McKneely was a protégé of Jerome Robbins
As a dancer, Joey McKneely learned the original choreography of West Side Story (1957) from director and choreographer Jerome Robbins himself. This makes the world tour of West Side Story the only production currently showing that uses Robbins’ choreography, reenacting the original musical as closely as possible.
The tour is running with three different sets
With the tour jet-setting from one destination to another, the production crew has three different sets in Europe, Asia and America to facilitate the logistics. The floor and set equipment which are made from steel and aluminium, weigh a total of 11 tons (about 10,000 kilograms) and require five trucks to transport.
Cast member Daniel Russell plays the same role his father did in 1988
Drama runs in Daniel Russell’s family. Russell, who plays Baby John in the Jets, shares the same role with his father Robert Russell, who performed for the production at Cleveland Opera House in 1988.
Musical director Donald Chan has conducted West Side Story for more than 3000 times
Donald Chan, who serves as musical supervisor and conductor has directed West Side Story far more than any other conductor has. With more than 100 musicals in his repertoire—including Cabaret and Phantom of the Opera—West Side Story is the one he is often called upon, conducting it for more than 3000 times to date.
The West Side Story World Tour is one of the longest-running, with 15 months on the road
The cast and crew has been travelling from one destination to another since last year, with only a 12-day break between its Manila production and Singapore. This means they would have packed their bags for at least 22 times during the tour.
Most of the cast are away from home for the first time
Boasting a young and dynamic company from the United States, company manager Rainer Tominski shares that it is the “first time leaving home” for most of the cast members, who are in their early twenties. “Many of them still live with their parents, and you can see that they’ve really grown after travelling the world,” he said. “Some places have been a culture shock for them, and it has been quite an experience.”
The cast and crew travel with a physiotherapist
With an intensive choreography and hectic schedule—Tominski shares that the cast performs eight shows per week, reporting three hours before each show for physical and vocal warmups—it can be demanding on each cast member’s body. The production always has a physiotherapist on hand to address any muscle injuries.
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