Among my friends and family, it’s a well-known fact. I’m not ashamed to admit it. So, here goes. I am a huge musical theatre nerd. I’ve even shared this nerdiness with the internet. I am rarely happier or more content than when I’m sitting amongst a theatre audience, watching insanely talented performers sing, dance, and act on stage, live in front of me. It started a long, long time ago, my love of musicals. I’ve said before that all my favourites movies as a kid involved people bursting into song at random and inopportune times. C’mon! What a perfect way to express emotion: love, hate, happiness, sadness, a song for every feeling. I know I can’t be the only one who shares this musical obsession, so, now’s the time to show yourselves! I’m going to talk about some of my favourites, and I’d love to hear what you think too. Let’s start at the top, with West Side Story.
West Side Story is my favourite musical, and its pedigree is simply without peer. A legend is behind WSS at every turn. The book? By Arthur Laurents. The music? Leonard Bernstein of course! And those lyrics? Why, that would be the incomparable Stephen Sondheim. Let’s start with the story, based on Romeo and Juliet. Set in the 50s, The Puerto Rican Sharks and the working-class white Jets rule their turf on the West Side of Manhattan. Tony, a former Jet, is trying to grow up, but Riff, the Jet’s current leader, pleads with Tony to come to a dance at the gym, where the Jets will challenge the Sharks to a rumble. Bernardo, the head of the Sharks, has a younger sister Maria, and when she and Tony meet, it’s love at first sight. At the rumble, a knife is pulled and Riff is killed by Bernardo, and Tony kills Bernardo in a moment of blind rage. Bernardo’s girlfriend Anita runs to tell Tony that Maria wants to meet him, but the gang harasses her, and she tells them that Maria has been killed by Chino. Tony goes to find Chino to be killed himself, since his life is meaningless without Maria, only to find her alive. The shocking and heartbreaking end has Chino shoot Tony dead. Phew!