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  • Robyn Davie

West Side Story

I love the theatre. My Dad is a director and for much of my childhood (and actually my adulthood, too) he’s been behind the scenes directing some of the greatest productions to hit the South African stage. I’ve been incredibly lucky – I was raised with a real passion for theatre and given so many opportunities to watch incredible performances. And it’s not just the shows themselves that I’m in love with, it’s the whole theatre experience. Getting a little dressed up, grabbing a drink at the theatre bar before it starts, buying some Whispers at interval. It’s pretty safe to say that a night at the theatre is one of my very favourite ways to spend an evening out, and I’m lucky that it’s a practice that Ant and I have carried into our adult lives and relationship together. Last week, we were invited to the opening night of West Side Story at The Joburg Theatre, fresh from its run in Cape Town, and it was breathtaking to get to finally watch one of my all time favourite musicals live in my hometown.

From the second that we stepped out of the Joburg Theatre last week Wednesday, I haven’t stopped singing/whistling/humming the melodies that we were treated to during the incredible show. I must have seen the 1961 film adaptation about a million times (give-or-take) and seeing the production with such a stellar South African cast was such a treat. Unsurprisingly, Jonathan Roxmouth was an absolute triumph in the lead role of Tony and, despite the fact that I’ve long had a secret crush on this (seriously though, who doesn’t?), I was anxious because I had crazy high expectations for this character. I mean, I’ve been in love with Tony for as long as I could understand that a guy who can both sing AND be in a gang must be the coolest human that’s ever roamed the earth. But Jonathan nailed it, and my expectations were less met, and more surpassed.

Lynelle Kenned, who plays the iconic Maria, was new to me, and I was pretty solidly in love with her by the end of the show, too. With an operatic background, her voice is clear and convincing, and she made an absolutely wonderful Maria.

Not to be outshone by their stars, the show’s ensemble cast really were phenomenal – and, guys, sometimes that really is saying something. It’s always really upsetting to see a show where the leads seem to be carrying the rest of the cast, but this really wasn’t the case with West Side Story (or WSS, as the cool kids say.) (Jokes, I just made that up right now.)

The male ensemble in particular absolutely KILLED their parts as the Jets and the Sharks (killed their parts, GET IT?!) and basically had me wanting to join a gang by the end of the show. I mean, apart from the whole Romeo and Juliet inspired tragedy element of gang war, obviously.

With Valentines Day coming up next week, West Side Story is my number 1 recommendation for a special night out for two. From the incredible staging to the music to the singing and dancing, it’s a guaranteed night to remember. And even if you’re not looking for a romantic Valentines activity, grab your friends (or your family or your parents or your kids – I don’t care who you take, just don’t miss it) and make an evening of it – complete with a pre-show drink and interval Whispers, the way it should be.

Congratulations to The Fugard Theatre for a beautiful production.



Buy tickets at Computicket here or call 0861 915 8000. The show runs until 5 March so don’t miss it!

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