Offbeat musical on street gangs
WENDY WARING, who plays Maria, the Juliet of "West Side Story," photographed outside the Winter Garden Theatre, Broadway, New York.
. A Romeo and Juliet story set among the youthful gang warfare of New York's West Side provides the theme for "West Side Story," opening on October 29, at
the Princess Theatre, Melbourne.
CONSIDERED to be
Princess Margaret's favorite musical, "West Side Story" will provide a shock for theatregoers conditioned to such musi- cals as "South Pacific" and "My Fair Lady."
When it opened on Broad- way three years ago, much of the audience was outraged. It had nothing in common with a "musical comedy" except
It was not opera or ballet, although there was a great deal of both in it.
The critics invented a new name for it - they called it
a musico-dance drama.
In it, switch-blades flash blood runs in bitter street "rumbles," juvenile delin- quents crouch and slither and spring. As in "Romeo and Juliet," boy does not get girl.
KITA TANISO, who plays
Anita. Rita, an Italian by birth, lives in Puerto Rico and in New York.
The Montagues and Capu- lets of "West Side Story" are rival gangs of juveniles--Man- hattan's native-born Jets and the Puerto Rican Sharks. The ill-fated lovers are a former
Jet, trying to go straight, and Maria, the sister of a Shark.
Few in 1957 would have thought that such a harsh drama about juvenile crime
But after three years "West
Side Story" is still a sell-out in the Winter Garden, one of Broadway's largest houses.
A national road company toured triumphantly for six months early this year. In London, the musical is nearing its second birthday at Her Majesty's Theatre.
It contains little humor, ex- cept for one number, "Gee, Officer Krupke!", which is a parody by the little gangsters of what psychologists might say about them.
It has some charming music written by Leonard Bern- stein, famous New York com- poser and conductor of the New York Philharmonic Sym- phony orchestra. But most of the music conveys the ner-
vous beat of the taut com-
munity of Manhattan's Hell's
The cast for Australia is all American.
"Naturally, we would have preferred to employ Aus- tralians for secondary roles and in the chorus," said Hart- ney Arthur, the show's Aus- tralian director. "But the music and choreography are so offbeat and our rehearsal time has been so short that we had to cast it almost entirely in New York."
BOB KOLE, who is
Tony, the Romeo of the story. Bob is an ex- gang member himself.
The three principal roles are being played by Bob Kole (Tony), Rita Tanno (Anita), and Wendy Waring (Maria).
Kole, a tenor with wide ex- perience on Broadway, was asked how he expected to handle himself in the dan- gerous knife-fight ballet scene.
"I was a Tony once," he
"When I was 17 I was a member of a gang in New York, wore peg-top trousers, talked the way punks talk.
"And then I met a girl who taught me how to dress, how to talk, how to be a respon- sible citizen. We were mar-
ried eight years ago, when I
He had a leading role in another Bernstein opera,
"Trouble in Tahiti."
Soprano Rita Tanno's role
of Anita calls for the rare combination of singer-actor - dancer. She has been playing the role in the company which has just concluded a tour.
Wendy Waring, a fine lyric soprano, is a comparative newcomer to Broadway. She has been appearing in another Broadway hit, "Fiorello." in which Australian Joy Nichols has been playing.