Opera Australia, GWB Entertainment and BB Group have announced the principal cast for the upcoming Australian production of West Side Story at Arts Centre Melbourne and the Sydney Opera House in 2019.
The timeless theatrical classic will feature some of Australia’s most exciting rising stars including Todd Jacobsson (Book Of Mormon) as Tony, Sophie Salvesani as Maria, Chloe Zuel as Anita, Noah Mullins as Riff, and Lyndon Watts as Bernardo.
“I can’t believe I get to play one of the most iconic roles in musical theatre! said Todd Jacobsson. “It really is a dream come true to be a part of such a beloved show all around the world.”
“West Side Story was the first show I ever performed in, so it still feels almost unimaginable, but immensely exciting to make my professional debut as Maria in a production that will play in two of Australia’s most prestigious venues,” said Sophie Salvesani.
A modern retelling of Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story is set in a New York City enveloped by bitter tension between two teenage gangs: the Jets, self-styled “Americans” [led by Riff], and the Sharks, a group of young Puerto Ricans [led by Bernardo] and remains as important and relevant today as it was when it was first created.
When the original Broadway production of West Side Story opened in 1957, musical theatre changed forever. The genius of its four creators, a remarkable collaboration between composer Leonard Bernstein, author Arthur Laurents, lyricist Stephen Sondheim and choreographer Jerome Robbins, produced a timeless masterpiece whose thrilling unity of music, dance, book and lyrics has been rarely matched since.
Director and choreographer Joey McKneely, a former pupil of Jerome Robbins, said he was blown away by the Australian talent during auditions. “After an exhaustive search, I am so pleased to have found these amazingly talented young artists to play these career-defining roles,” said McKneely.
“Each one possess such extraordinary naturalism in their acting, that it was captivating to watch them embody these characters. I cannot wait to bring their thrilling performances to Melbourne and Sydney stages.”
McKneely’s vibrant staging of West Side Story has received world-wide acclaim since its premiere at London’s Sadler’s Wells. McKneely is a two-time Tony Award-nominated choreographer whose Broadway credits include Smokey Joe’s Café, The Life, Twelfth Night, The Wild Party and The Boy From Oz.
Opera Australia’s Artistic Director Lyndon Terracini reiterated what a wonderful opportunity this will be for Australian audiences. “West Side Story is one of the greatest pieces of musical theatre ever written, which is evidenced by its continuing success around the world,” said Terracini. “We are honoured to be providing the platform for showcasing the talents of these rising stars of Australia.”
While Torben Brookman, director of GWB Entertainment said “Casting this production of West Side Story has been a thrilling process, the excitement and energy in the room was palpable and the cast that has been assembled are the most exciting young performers from across the country.”
West Side Story will play a strictly limited season at the Arts Centre Melbourne in April 2019, and Sydney Opera House from August 2019. For more information, visit: www.westsidestory.com.au for details.
Image: Todd Jacobsson and Sophie Salvesani – photo by Jeff Busby