West Side Story on Sydney Harbour: sneak peek

West Side Story on Sydney Harbour: rehearsals in full swing

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THROUGH THEIR PACES: Kristina McNamara (Graziella) and Mark Hill (Riff) practice their dance moves for West Side Story on Sydney Harbour.

THROUGH THEIR PACES: Kristina McNamara (Graziella) and Mark Hill (Riff) practice their dance moves for West Side Story on Sydney Harbour.

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Something's coming: cast members put through their paces for West Side Story opening

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REHEARSALS for Opera Australia’s brand new production of West Side Story on Sydney Harbour are now in full swing ahead of the show’s premiere on the overwater stage in March.

The cast of performers are being put through an intense rehearsal schedule to master the challenging choreography of this favourite Broadway musical, under the direction of associate director and choreographer Julio Monge.

Monge is a protégée of the West Side Story's original choreographer Jerome Robbins and said he is excited to be back in Australia for this new production.

“I’m so amazed with the incredible passion the cast are already bringing to this piece,” said Monge.

'INCREDIBLE PASSION': The full cast in rehearsals before the show's opening on March 22.

'INCREDIBLE PASSION': The full cast in rehearsals before the show's opening on March 22.

“I haven’t seen hunger like this from a group of performers in years and I can’t wait for audiences to feel that passion when they see the show for themselves.”

Opening on Sydney Harbour on March 22, the performers are getting ready to rumble in this all new incarnation of the musical, which will be presented on Opera Australia’s purpose-built open-air stage at Mrs Macquaries Point - twice the size of most indoor stages.

The 42-strong cast includes opera/musical crossover stars Julie Lea Goodwin and Alexander Lewis, who play the leading lovers Maria and Tony, as well as Melbourne-born Karli Dinardo who makes her Australian debut fresh off the back of the US national tour of Hamilton.

Also making an Australian debut is Puerto Rican performer Waldemar Quiñones-Villanueva, who has previously performed in West Side Story on Broadway and will play the role of Bernardo.

Vivid costume designs

Costume designs, by award-winning Australian designer Jennifer Irwin, have also been released. Irwin has worked in film, musical theatre, opera and ballet around the world over the past 36 years.

Irwin’s designs drawn inspiration from the vivid colours and designs from Puerto Rico, Cuba and Africa, bringing an edgy, modern update to the musical's original 1950 aesthetic.

Paying homage to the original stage and film versions of this 20th century musical, Irwin’s designs will pit the two warring gangs in West Side Story – the Jets and the Sharks – against each other using opposing colour palettes: the Jets in cool blue tones, while the Sharks will hit the stage in warm reds.

MODERN TWIST: Costume designer Jennifer Irwin's sketches for the vivid dresses.

MODERN TWIST: Costume designer Jennifer Irwin's sketches for the vivid dresses.

“Sydney Harbour is one of the most beautiful places in the world to see a show, and it was important to create something that can be read visually from a distance in front of iconic landmarks like the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House,” said Irwin.

This is the first time that Irwin has been charged with the costume design for Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour, and she is excited by the opportunity to collaborate with  American director Francesca Zambello and Australian set designer Brian Thomson.

Renowned for creating sets that feature huge objects that encapsulate the story, Thomson’s set design will be dominated by a giant 15-metre tall highway overpass that will soar 30 metres across the length of the stage, symbolising the gritty underbelly of New York’s urban gang culture.

  • Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour - West Side Story, March 22 - April 21, 2019 (excluding Mondays and Good Friday). Tickets from $99, (02) 9318-8200, opera.org.au/harbour

Read more: Married couple Brian Meegan and Kate Raison star in Two, Brisbane

Read more: West Side Story coming to Sydney Harbour and Melbourne

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