West Side Story at the Bord Gais Energy Theatre

Thanks to a tweet from writer Sarah Webb I voted in the Bookshop of the Year competition and a month later received a call to say that I had won tickets to West Side Story, I hardly remembered there being a prize for entering so it was altogether very pleasant phone call.

If you haven’t been to the relatively new theatre (opened in March 2010) designed by Daniel Libeskind and situated in Dublin’s Grand Canal Square I would urge a visit. It was my first time in the building so I arrived early to lap up the atmosphere.

From the outside it looks this impressive.

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But there is a different type of  impressiveness from the inside looking out and especially at night. The glass front rises up at various different angles and is criss-crossed with white beams which gave me the impression of being at the bottom of the bow of a glass boat. The modestly lit waters of Grand Canal Dock silently lapping in front helps to secure this image. Red lights that flicker and dance upward on angled columns which protrude out of the angular plaza between the entrance and the water gave me a sense of haphazard pilot lights guiding us into hazardous waters. Overall I was left with a peculiarly satisfying nautical feeling. But once you enter the auditorium it has the all classic feel of being inside a traditional theatre albeit bigger than any other in the Ireland.

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I shall leave the architect’s son behind as the curtain rises and we are transported to New York’s West Side in the 1960s where two gangs are preparing to square off to claim dominance over their meagre slice of territory. The Story begins.

This musical reminds me that I have not seen a professional production with standards higher than teenagers in love for a very long time. The gangs almost glide across each other’s paths like professional ice skaters, Joey McKneely’s choreography is sublime. he mixes ballet, swing, salsa and probably a handful of other dancing styles styles I can’t identify as the gangs and players face off with each other.

The singing, especially from the two leads playing Tony & Maria are literally top notch. Massive fire escapes of New York flank either side of the stage and move in and out on their invisible axis when the scene demanded. Colourful to brilliant white costumes adorn the players who perform exquisite moves under such technical use of lighting that suits the moods and tone of the individual scenes.

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Familiar tunes “America”, “Maria”, “Tonight”, “I Feel Pretty”, floated over and invigorate the audience, while “Officer Krupke” provides the welcome light relief from the tragic modern re-working of Rome & Juliet and all at a dizzyingly breakneck speed.

If you can keep up with it follow the international tour dates here.

For more about what is on at The Bord Gais Energy Theatre click here.

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