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Theatre Under the Stars’ West Side Story

West Side Story Gangs (Tim Matheson)

In 2016 Stanley Park’s Theatre Under the Stars presents West Side Story, a beautiful, yet tragic musical about two rival street gangs in 1950’s New York.

West Side Story 2016 Review

Based on William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, the musical is about a pair of young lovers, each of a different ethnic background and from an opposing gang.

Theatre Under the Stars does a wonderful job with the musical – the singing is beautiful, the dancing is excellent and the production overall is delightful.

West Side Story (Tim Matheson)
Photo by Tim Matheson

West Side Story Review

We saw West Side Story on opening night and loved it. It’s very different from Theatre Under the Stars’ other 2016 musical, Beauty & the Beast, which is also excellent, but a Disney fairy tale with popular modern-day songs, a happy ending and better for children.

The same as Beauty & the Beast, the acting, singing and dancing in West Side Story is terrific. There is a lot of dancing, and both the music and choreography is jazzy and entertaining. The full cast includes almost three dozen actors and singers, all of whom are talented dancers. A few can do the splits, some do flips and all are good at jazz and jiving. Also like Beauty & the Beast, instead of canned music, the show features its own live orchestra which adds to the experience.

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The Story

West Side Story is about two rival gangs – the Jets, who are white and led by Riff, and the Sharks, who are Puerto Rican and headed by Bernardo. Tony, a former Jet, falls in love with Maria, the beautiful Spanish-accented sister of Bernardo. Like in Romeo & Juliet, the story ends tragically, although not with the help of poison.

West Side Story Cast (Tim Matheson)
Photo by Tim Matheson

West Side Story Actors

The actors in the Theatre Under the Stars’ West Side Story production are talented. All can dance, and the two lead characters have beautiful singing voices. Maria is played by Jennifer Gillis who is an especially amazing and talented singer. Like a number of other cast members, Gillis is from Capilano University’s Musical Theatre Program in North Vancouver – you can tell from this show that she has a very promising acting and/or singing career ahead of her.

Riff and Tony (Tim Matheson)
Riff and Tony (photo by Tim Matheson)

The entire cast in West Side Story is great. They are also all very young, which fits their characters as young gang members. In addition to Maria being played by Jennifer Gillis, Tony is played by Matt Montgomery, Maria’s friend Anita is played by Alexandra Lainfiesta and Jet gang member Diesel is played by Riley Qualtieri. Also, Kai Bradbury plays Chino from the Sharks, Daniel James White plays Riff from the Jets, and Alen Dominguez plays the Shark’s leader Bernardo. Cleverly, Chris King plays Lt. Schrank and conducts the orchestra.

Congratulations to all the cast, directors, musicians and crew on a performance very well done!

Theatre Under the Stars at Night
Malkin Bowl at night

Other Information

Theatre Under the Stars is located at Stanley Park‘s Malkin Bowl at 610 Pipeline Road just a short distance from the Stanley Park Pavilion. For further details about the theatre see Theatre Under the Stars or the TUTS Box Office to purchase tickets.

West Side Story shows on every odd day of the month in July and on even days in August. Beauty & the Beast is on every other day. Performances start at 8 pm every evening, except on July 23rd, 27th and 30th which are Celebration of Light fireworks evenings in Vancouver and days when the shows start an hour earlier, so at 7 pm.

For a review of Theatre Under the Stars’ other 2016 production, which is also highly recommended, see Beauty & the Beast.

In case you want to see the original play that inspired West Side Story, Romeo and Juliet is showing this summer at the Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival at Vanier Park. It too is excellent, as are the Bard’s other plays including The Merry Wives of Windsor, Othello and Pericles.

(Note: The photos above that feature actors performing were taken by Tim Matheson.)

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