60 years later, Broadway hit ‘West Side Story’ still captivates audiences with its message

WEST SIDE STORY. PHOTO: Johan Persson courtesy of Concertus Manila
WEST SIDE STORY. PHOTO: Johan Persson courtesy of Concertus Manila

Since it’s Broadway premiere in 1957, theater fans have been singing and dancing to the catchy tunes of the West Side Story. Now, 60 years later, the production is in Manila for a three-week run.

Before their gala night on Aug 11, members of the press met the principal cast of one of the longest running Broadway musicals.

“[The Manila audience] is great, they’re very responsive,” Lance Hayes, who plays Riff (the leader of The Sharks), said about the Filipino audience on their opening night on Aug 10.

When asked about what makes West Side Story still relevant in 2017, their answers revolve around two themes: Love and Racism.

“That’s the best thing about taking this around the world: to show people that if you really just listen and get to know someone, that’s all you really should do,” Hayes told Coconuts.

Waldemar Quiñones-Villanueva who plays Bernardo, the Puerto Rican leader of The Sharks, also spoke about how racism is depicted in the musical.

“We’re sending a message: this show is about tolerance, love, and how hate is always gonna [end up badly], it’s always gonna [end up] sad,” said Villanueva.

“Sadly, racism is still a thing today,” Keely Beirne, who plays the lively Anita, said. “We encourage everyone to go see the show and see how we can all come together [and learn how to accept] one another despite our differences.”

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Despite all the animosity shown in the musical, the message is still about love.

“Just love, man. Stop hating on each other, just love,” said Kevin Hack, who plays the lead role of Tony.

“We’re always gonna be different [from one another],” Jenna Burns, who plays Maria, said.

She adds, “We grow up differently and sometimes we are not going to agree, but the thing that the show does, which I think is really cool, is you kind of have the two different sides of the coin: you can handle it like how The Jets and The Sharks do and let that fear of the unknown become hatred and violence, or you can handle it the way Tony and Maria do and you can look at someone and say, ‘yeah, we’re different people’ but still see each other for who they really are.”

Below are some excerpts from their performances during the press preview. Enjoy.

Tony (Kevin Hack) sings a heart-melting rendition of “Maria”

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The Jets, led by Riff (Lance Hayes), perform “Cool”

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Tony and Maria (Kevin Hack and Jenna Burns) perform “Tonight”

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Get ready to #SingYourHeartOut and catch West Side Story at the Theatre at Solaire until August 27. Tickets available at Ticketworld.

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