Vancouver Opera opened its season on October 22nd with one of the greatest theatrical and musical works of the 20th century: Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story. This high energy show was not like any ordinary opera, it was choreographed with a 30-piece orchestra to 40 actors who were singing and dancing throughout the show.

Drawing on the classic tale of Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story transplants the action to 1950s New York City. The Sharks and the Jets, rival gangs, are gearing up for a rumble to end all rumbles, when reluctant Jet Tony falls in love with Maria, sister of the leader of the Sharks.

Riff, the Jets’ leader, suggests a rumble. He plans to challenge the Sharks’ leader, Bernardo, at a neighborhood dance that night and suggests they invite Tony, a former member of the Jets. Some of the gang is hesitant, unsure of Tony’s loyalty. Riff approaches Tony anyway and he reluctantly agrees.

Tony and Maria notice each other and they dance together, each wants to be with each other but worries how the rest of their friends will react. Maria falls in love with her Tony after he serenades her. Tony struggles as he is still part of the gang, but he wants the gangs to get along and to see everyone the same people of colour and people who are white.

The distraught Tony searches for Chino screaming for Chino to kill him Just as Tony sees that Maria is alive, Chino shoots him. The Jets, Sharks and adults arrive to see Maria holding Tony in her arms as he dies.

The Jets advance towards the Sharks but Maria takes Chino’s gun and threatens the crowd. She cannot bring herself to fire and drops the gun, crying. Gradually the two gangs come together, form a procession and carry Tony’s body away. The feud is over.