Opera Australia will present two different productions of West Side Story in 2019

Less than two weeks after West Side Story was confirmed as the 2019 Handa Opera On Sydney Harbour, Opera Australia has confirmed a second production of the Bernstein classic will also be presented by the national opera company in 2019.

West Side Story. Photo credit: Nilz Boheme and Johan Persson

For the first time, Opera Australia will partner with GWB Entertainment to co-produce their annual musical theatre offering. The previous five musicals in the Opera Australia calendar (South Pacific, The King and I, Anything Goes, My Fair Lady and Evita) have been co-produced by John Frost, enjoying enormous success.

This production of West Side Story will play a four week season at Arts Centre Melbourne in April 2019 and a limited season at the Sydney Opera House from 16 August 2019. It is understood that the production will tour internationally during the break between Australian seasons.

Audition submissions are now open to find Australia’s most exciting young talent to play dream roles in this timeless classic, which features Jerome Robbins’ ground-breaking choreography.

BB Group CEO and Producer Ralf Kokemuller said “We are thrilled to be bringing this production for an eagerly awaited return to Australia. The dramatic story, spectacular dancing and unforgettable songs have captivated theatregoers for decades and audiences in Melbourne and Sydney are going to love it!”

Opera Australia’s Artistic Director Lyndon Terracini is excited about presenting two distinctly different productions of West Side Story in 2019. The first, directed by Francesca Zambello with musical direction by Guy Simpson and design by Brian Thomson, on the now-famous outdoor stage with Sydney’s city skyline as a backdrop. The second, touring production will be directed by Joey McKneely and play in traditional proscenium arch theatres.

West Side Story is one of the greatest pieces of musical theatre ever written, which is evidenced by its continuing success around the world. And to have two sensational productions in Australia in 2019 continuing the Leonard Bernstein anniversary celebrations is terrific. It was an opportunity that we just couldn’t pass up,” Terracini said.

When the original West Side Story opened on Broadway in 1957, musical theatre changed forever as the most complex and challenging unity of music, dance, book and lyrics was realised in a way which has been rarely matched since.

The genius of its four creators, a remarkable collaboration between Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Laurents, Stephen Sondheim and Jerome Robbins, produced a masterpiece whose artistic quality remains unquestioned to this day.

Now former pupil of Jerome Robbins, Joey McKneely’s vibrant new stage production returns to Australia after wild acclaim world-wide. Since the first world tour in 2003, there have been more than 1500 performances of McKneely’s award-winning production of West Side Story. Joey 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.

“We are thrilled to bring fans of musical theatre this newly announced magnificent production by Joey McKneely and on top that, we will also have a brand new production of West Side Story created for our outdoor Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour stage by some of the best designers in the business. We really saw this as delivering the best of both worlds for everyone involved”, Terracini said.

Auditions commence in Sydney from Tuesday 21 August and in Melbourne from 28 August. For more information on the audition process visit


Erin James

Erin James is AussieTheatre.com's former Editor in Chief and a performer on both stage and screen. Credits include My Fair Lady, South Pacific and The King and I (Opera Australia), Love Never Dies and Cats (Really Useful Group), Blood Brothers (Enda Markey Presents), A Place To Call Home (Foxtel/Channel 7) and the feature film The Little Death (written and directed by Josh Lawson).

Erin James

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