We round up the reviews for Ivo Van Hove’s new production of the classic musical.

Adam Rodriguez/Jan Versweyveld

LA Times: “But I don’t admire this production simply for its artful infusion of screen technology. I adore this production for making me feel so deeply the tragic waste of innocent love in a society still festering in hate.”

The New York Times: “As real, human-scale people, those crazy, mixed-up kids from New York’s mean streets have seldom seemed smaller, blurrier or less sure of their purpose — as characters or as performers.”

The Guardian: **** “Van Hove has said he wanted to make the violence more tangible, and mock-fight scenes plus a liberal use of fake blood ensure this is the case, the show ultimately hews closer to its gloomy, doomed love. The end arrives abruptly, with no time to linger or rationalize the tragedy; something has been lost, and it didn’t need to be this way. It’s a fitting close for a show that throws down a bunch of gambles, most of which pay off – though of course, the biggest gamble was already set: a revamp of a beloved classic on Broadway, with big-name producers, is sure to lure ticket buyers, grit and controversy or not.”

Variety: “There’s no doubt that the sensibility has shifted in this revival, but not enough to seem theatrically radical. Although we no longer seem to be in the 50s, the modern elements are mainly structural, like the gigantic scenic projections (designed by Luke Halls) on the back wall. At first they seem intrusive, more aggressive than enlightening because they’re competing with, and often overwhelming, the stage action below.”

New York Post: **** “Chances are, the closest you’ve come to seeing a production of this musical without Robbins’ original moves is at a high school that couldn’t quite nail them. But now we have Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s more modern dances, which toss aside grace for youthful clumsiness and anger. There’s still some Latin flair — the teens yell “mambo!” after all, not “Isadora Duncan!” — but it’s not showstopping stuff.”

Rolling Stone: “This new staging of the classic — with Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s powerful new choreography and Jan Versweyveld’s stunning minimal scenic and lighting design — is fantastic.”

Entertainment Weekly: “If van Hove’s many liberties feel sometimes like a necessary refresh and other times like mere miscalculation, it almost doesn’t matter in the end; there’s still a place — somehow, someday, somewhere — for West Side‘s story, whatever form it takes.”

Vulture.com:”But when this West Side Story wants to be gritty, van Hove’s sexy-wexy backdrop choices make it cheesy and anodyne; when a performer tries to be genuine, some awkward live zoom will reveal artificiality. Attention, both the audience’s and the performers’, is critically divided.”

Time Out: **** “Van Hove’s West Side Story is likely to divide admirers of the show into warring camps. But the revival approaches the show with the confidence of knowing that it does not need to be definitive. There will be other West Side Storys, including Steven Spielberg’s film later this year. Meanwhile, if Broadway is to be a place where artistic risk is valued, there’s a place for this.”

New York Theatre Guide: *** “Even with issues, the 2020 vision of West Side Story reveals the durability of the musical, depth and beauty of the songs and the stubbornly evergreen message. When it comes to life’s hard realities, this show is more apt to offer a reminder than a diversion.”

America Magazine: “In the history of American musicals, these two classics loom similarly large and had roughly analogous impact on the form. But while nothing can take that significant historical role away from “West Side Story,” this new production, try as it might, does not make a great case for its future.”

Hollywood Reporter: “It can be arresting, as the Jets and Sharks line up downstage and face the audience during the abridged overture while an unseen camera pans across their scowling faces in towering close-up on the wall behind. And the expertly shot cityscape footage of industrial wasteland, housing projects, freeway underpasses, subways and streets wrapped in scaffolding — filmed in various New York City boroughs, unlike the specific pre-gentrification Upper West Side setting of the original — brings a vividly atmospheric sense of place. But the overwhelming use of video takes some getting used to, especially in the musical numbers.”

Broadway World: “Attempts at symbolism come off ridiculously. As Tony and Maria sing the soaring “Tonight”, the other characters physically try and pull them apart as the two lovers lean into each other to sing the final notes. As “Somewhere” is sung, it looks like dead bodies of gang members are coming to life and making love. Onstage rain falls throughout most of the second half.”

West Side Story continues to play at the Broadway Theatre until the 6th September.


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