Celebrating its 60th birthday, West Side Story is as beloved today as it was when it first hit Broadway in 1957. The show opens in Hong Kong for the first time in May, telling the Romeo and Juliet-inspired tale of warring gangs in 1950s New York and a fatal love affair.
Currently touring through Europe, lead cast members Kevin Hack (Tony) and Jenna Burns (Maria) chatted with us about backstage secrets, love at first sight and the importance of diversity.
We're giving away 5 pairs of tickets to the premiere of West Side Story in Hong Kong—scroll down to enter.
Tell us something surprising about the show.
Jenna: We learnt the entire show in a week and a half. The dancers learnt the choreography in five days, and the total rehearsal process was only four weeks. I think that’s part of what makes the show so great—it makes us more effective in telling the story.
Have there been any on or off stage mishaps?
Kevin: We all know each other on a personal level, so sometimes someone will get this look in their eye—we call it the twinkle—and you all end up laughing.
There was one night that it happened during the ballet scene: Bernardo gave Riff a look, and Riff gave me a look, and then I looked at Maria. We’re all holding in laughter, trying to get through this really serious scene: I had tears rolling down my cheeks trying to not laugh.
Are there any similarities between you and the characters you play?
Kevin: I don’t really stress about a lot, and neither does Tony. He’s like a puppy, and very excited, and so am I—we’re both extroverts.
Jenna: She has a really open mind: she meets Tony and just dives right in. I tend to hold back, I’m more analytical. I think I could learn something from her: I’d love to be that bold.
What are the challenges of being on tour for so long?
Jenna: You have to stop and think about how to rev yourself up. It’s tempting to go on auto-pilot and coast it, but that wouldn’t be doing the story justice. We owe it to the story to hold each other accountable and keep it fresh. You keep discovering these new things, which adds new depths and layers.
What makes West Side Story in Hong Kong more than just another Romeo and Juliet adaptation?
Jenna: I think the character of Maria is a much stronger female role than Juliet. The ending really shows that: Maria sees that she has to move on. She starts as a young girl, but as the show goes on she completely grows up: she’s a woman, she’s stronger, and that’s really different from the ending of Romeo and Juliet.
Tony and Maria fall in love the moment they meet. Do you believe in love at first sight?
Tony: I don’t believe in love at first sight: I believe in an overwhelming sensation of physical attraction at first sight. There are so many aspects of love that need to align: physically, mentally and spiritually. But everyone wants to find their Maria. I would hope I’m as overwhelmed as Tony is, when I find her, and I think people still relate to that.
Why do you think West Side Story has remained so popular?
Tony: It’s a huge part of our culture. Whether you’ve seen it or not, you probably know the songs. The first time I heard ‘I Feel Pretty’ was in some TV advert for beauty products. The story is timeless: the love, the hate, the multicultural relationships, it’s always been relevant and it’s always going to be.
Jenna: The theme of diversity is really important. We all know what it feels like to have differences with people. Our world can really understand that right now: this isn’t just an issue in the states. We get to share this story with people of so many different races, religions and backgrounds, and I think that’s why this story is so important to tell.
We're giving away 5 pairs of tickets to the premiere showing of West Side Story in Hong Kong on Thursday, May 18, 2017. Simply answer the skill testing question below and your email, and you could be among the first to see the show.
Terms & conditions:
- This competition is open to Hong Kong residents only.
- Entries will be collected until Thursday, April 13, 2017 at 12pm.
- The winner will be announced on Hong Kong Tatler's Facebook page on April 18, 2017 at 6pm (so make sure you're following us).
- The winner must also be a registered subscriber of Hong Kong Tatler.
West Side Story runs from May 18 to June 11, 2017 at The Hong Kong Academy For Performing Arts, Lyric Theatre. Get your tickets here.
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