by Nora Wohlfeil
Japan’s love affair with musical theater seems to be reaching its boiling point this summer, with such international favorites as Xanadu, Hairspray, and A Chorus Line all making tour stops in Tokyo. But perhaps the most anticipated show of the season is the 50th Anniversary Tour of the Leonard Bernstein classic West Side Story.
By now, any theater fan will know that West Side Story is based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet—a tale of two young lovers torn between their allegiance to their families and their love for each other. The 1957 musical sees the story set in New York, and the rivalry is not between two families, but between two opposing street gangs (one white and one Puerto Rican). As timeless a story as this is, it is largely the sheer entertainment factor that has made West Side Story a huge success for over half a decade.
This time around the international cast does Jerome Robbins’ energetic choreography and Stephen Soundheim’s poetic lyrics justice by staying true to the original and not taking too many artistic liberties, so don’t expect much in the way of surprises. But masterpieces like this are better left alone, and both fans and first time viewers will be able to appreciate the hard work that went into making all of the ensemble numbers synch so perfectly. Last year’s Tokyo dates sold out completely, so book early for the best selection.
July 27–August 9, various times.
(Photos courtesy of Kyodo Tokyo)