American classic comes to town

by Ian Begley

PROVOCATIVE finger snapping of street gangs, Puerto Rican girls’ whirling skirts on New York City’s flat roofs, derelict West Side back yards – just a few notes of Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story.

Joey McKneely’s award-winning show, comes to Bord Gais Energy Theatre from January 18 to 21 as part of a global tour.

The production has played to sold-out houses all over the world, from London to Paris and Berlin, from Sydney to Tokyo. It was nominated for London’s renowned theatre prize, the Laurence Olivier Award, and awarded two Theatregoers’ Choice Awards in 2009.

With ground breaking choreography by the legendary Jerome Robbins, book by Arthur Laurents, an unforgettable score by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, West Side Story changed the face of musical theatre for ever.

The show is packed with unforgettable songs including Maria, Tonight, Somewhere, America and I Feel Pretty, this production of West Side Story has been described as “one of the towering achievements of musical theatre of the last century”.

Now Joey McKneely’s vibrant stage production of the classic dance musical returns to Ireland after international sell-out success.

The idea of creating a modernization of the tragic conflicts in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet was first conceived by the enterprising dancer, choreographer and up-and-coming director Jerome Robbins, when he was asked by his friend the actor Montgomery Clift for help in interpreting the role of “Romeo” in a fresh way.

The concept thus engendered, in which he had transformed the original family feud into a teenage gang war in a slum district of New York, took a firm hold upon Robbins. His dream was to collaborate in a team made up of some of the greatest talents in the music and theatre world, to create a new and individual work for the stage which would be as vanguard as it was commercial.

In December, 1958, the curtain was raised on the first European premiere of West Side Story at Her Majesty’s Theatre in the West End of London. The audience raved, the critics were carried away. The work was performed 10,39 times. In London, the masterpiece was given the tribute it deserved, and here it was immediately realized that “the musical” would never again be the same as it had been before.

In the legendary film version of West Side Story, too, Jerome Robbins found the perfect setting for his matchless choreography. Awarded ten Oscars in 1961, this movie is among those that have received the most awards in the entire history of Hollywood. Since then, this unique musical has been interpreted and staged innumerable times – and no production has ever been able to equal the original Broadway classic.

Tickets are priced from €20 – €65. For more information, visit

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