Recommended*** For many theater-goers, “West Side Story” represents one of the greatest musicals- an inspiring book by Arthur Laurents, stunning music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by newcomer Stephen Sondheim- this is a special list of names, plus we can add to this, the inspiration of the entire concept by director/choreographer, Jerome Robbins. The story is based loosely on “Romeo and Juliet”, but instead of two families who are at war, it is based in New York City and is about the rival gangs, The Jets ( the already existing residents of the West Side) and the new comers, The Sharks ( the Puerto Ricans, who are changing the complexion of the area). The story is about “turf wars” and love as Tony (Addison Reid Coe) , a young man who wants to end the gang wars, finds himself falling in love with the young sister of the Sharks leader, Bernardo ( Andres’ Acosta), Maria ( the lovely Maryjoanna Grisso)- which of course is the Juliet to Tony’s Romeo.
There is a rumble and while it is the intent to have a “fair fight”, things go slightly awry, and there are deaths. The strength of this play has always been the music and dance, a mixture of ballet, musical theater and jazz. This being a smaller version due to the shorter runs, I found the show to look smaller compared to previous performances I have witnessed. I know that to keep costs down, using a non-equity cast helps, but, to be honest, I know that we have local Chicago performers, who are non-Equity, who could easily have out sung, out danced and out acted what we were brought by BIC for this short tour. The dance numbers are strong, the songs are still a delight to hear, “Something’s Coming”, “Tonight”, “I Feel Pretty”, “America” and many more- these are songs that have thrilled audiences for over 50 years and even with the slight modification of adding Spanish to the script, it is the music and the dance that make this a special experience.
This is a young energetic cast with a number of Hispanic actors playing the Sharks roles, and for this I give credit to the producers. There are a great many talented Latinos who are passed over for roles they belong in and in this production, although it might be “type-casting” it is acceptable..Michelle Alves is a dynamite Anita ( sexy and savvy) and Acosto’s Bernardo is perfect. More would be even better, but it is a start. This is an updated version of a classic and although not as strong as I would have hoped for, this is one of the greatest Broadway musicals ever written and is always a pleasure to see.
“West Side Story” is here, at The Oriental Theatre 24 West Randolph Street, as part of the Broadway In Chicago series, through the 16th with performances as follows:
Fridays 7:30 p.m.
Saturdays 2 and 8 p.m.
Father’s day 2 and 7:30 p.m.
Tickets range from $18- $85 and are available at all the Broadway in Chicago box offices, The Broadway in Chicago Ticketline at 800-775-2000, at all Ticketmaster retail outlets and online at www.BroadwayInChicago.com
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