Friday, May 24, 2024

New Broadway “West Side Story” to Kick Up a Fuss: No Intermission, Famous Song and Ballet Cut, Video Projections for Sets


Last year, director Ivo von Hove brought his hit London production of “Network” to New York and caused a lot of talk: his show was full of video projections, people walking around in headsets, and an actual real restaurant on the stage that made absolutely no sense. On top of that, two of the characters went outside the theater and walked around with a cameraman. Oblivious New Yorkers just walked around them. Not realizing what he was doing on West 44th St. one night, I actually tapped on the insideof the window of Cafe Un Deux Trois and waved at Tony Goldwyn out on the sidewalk while he waited for his cue. He motioned to me that he was working!

Now von Hove is coming with the one of the all time great musicals of our time, “West Side Story.” I told you some time ago that his choreographer, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, is replacing the famous Jerome Robbins choreography with her own… stuff. It does feel like “West Side Story” is going to be done very “Sprockets”-esque. The difference, of course, was that “Network” was new, and von Hove’s to play with. “West Side Story” is canon on Broadway, never to be trifled with.

So far, tickets are selling very well. But here are some spoilers for people forking over hundreds of dollars.

According Vogue’s eminent theater writer, Adam Green, the show has no intermission. To make that work, von Hove has cut the legendary ballet that accompanies the song “Somewhere” (aka “There’s a place for us”). He’s also entirely cut the song “I Feel Pretty.” And just to make things more confusing, Tony, who is Polish American in the play and film, usually red-headed and freckled, is now played by tousle-haired actor Isaac Powell, who is “the son of an African American and Native American father and ‘über-Caucasian’ mother.”

Plus, there will be lots of video projection. Like “Network,” this suggests a very busy stage, perfect for the ADHD generation. Will the cast go outside, as with “Network”? This “West Side Story” will play in the cavernous Broadway Theater, at 53rd and Broadway. It abuts Hell’s Kitchen, where the show is set. Who knows? Unfortunately, the once menacing Hell’s Kitchen is now filled with sushi bars and large glass condos.

Green writes that Stephen Sondheim has signed off on all of this, and so have the estates of Leonard Bernstein and Jerome Robbins. Of course, they have nothing to lose. If the show’s a success, all the better. And if it’s not, no harm is done. Plus, Steven Spielberg will arrive in one year with his new movie version that will adhere to the traditional version.


Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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