West Side Story — Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour

Opera Australia's take on this star-crossed love story is heading back to Sydney Harbour's stunning floating stage.
Sarah Ward and Libby Curran
March 20, 2024

Overview

On a stage or screen somewhere, the Jets and the Sharks are usually facing off — or, given how popular that West Side Story has proven for almost seven decades now, that's how it feels at least. The famous musical last popped up in cinemas in Australia thanks to Steven Spielberg. Next, it's treading the boards again courtesy of Opera Australia, and in spectacular surroundings.

Sydney Harbour is set to experience a taste of Broadway magic circa 1957, with Handa Opera's famed floating stage playing host to legendary show — again. West Side Story returns to the yearly event after doing the honours in 2019 and proving a smash, unsurprisingly. Over 65,000 tickets were snapped up, making it the most-popular of Handa Opera's productions to-date.

In 2024, the musical is lighting up the unique waterfront opera venue from Friday, March 22–Sunday, April 21, again reimagining the classic tale of star-crossed lovers in 50s-era New York City. If you've missed past versions — film, opera or otherwise — West Side Story tells the tale of two rival West Side gangs, plus the drama that ensues when people from each side fall in love.

Acclaimed director Francesca Zambello, along with Brian Thomson and Jennifer Irwin, created this new take on the original Broadway favourite — following on from famed musical figures Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents, who originally did the honours in the 50s.

And yes, the story is basically William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, but revamped and transferred to the Big Apple.

Sydneysiders and visitors alike get to see the captivating production brought to life under the stars, from harbourside seats at Mrs Macquaries Point, while bopping along to all of the musical's iconic hit songs — 'I Feel Pretty', 'Maria', 'Somewhere', 'America', 'Cool' and, of course, 'Tonight'.

Also included in this West Side Story experience: not just the show on the overwater stage, but also fireworks each evening, dazzling Sydney skyline views and hitting up pop-up dining spots that are constructed onsite each year.

Images: Opera Australia's 2019 cast of West Side Story on Sydney Harbour.

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