It has been over 50 years since “Romeo & Juliet” was taken to a more modern time, the 1950’s and placed in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. It was a time of unrest on the streets as gangs began to flourish and protecting one’s turf was of great importance. This is the basis of “West Side Story” one of Broadway’s classic musicals that took a look at race relations back then. The Puerto Ricans were moving to New York to have a better life and the American kids of the street were not prepared for what they were about to experience.
In “West Side Story”, Romeo is represented by Tony (Jim DeSelm whose vocal range is extraordinary) , a Polish American kid who wants to move on with life and leave his gang life behind and Juliet, by Maria (Christina Nieves hits it out of the park in this role), the sister of the rival gang leader. Their eyes meet at a high school dance and they fall in love. The love they have is what is called “forbidden” love as each is told that this cannot be.
The music is exciting, the dancing under the choreography of Rhett Guter) is amazing and the sets on the stage of Drury Lane Oakbrook by Scott Davis amazingly simple, but sheer perfection, for telling this age-old story. Songs like “Tonight”, “I Feel Pretty”, “Somewhere” , “America” (deliciously performed by Anita/Michelle Aravena and Rosalia/Lillian Castillo), ” Gee, Officer Krupke” ( Adrian Aguilar/Action and the Jets bring this number to a new high) and the loving “One Hand, One Heart”. This is a musical that is filled with music and lyrics that tell the story. The music without words allows the story to be told in dance making this complete.
Bernardo, the head of The Sharks, and Maria’s brother is portrayed by Lucas Segovia who is brilliant (one can tell that he is a ballet dancer from the moment he steps on the stage) in this role. The ensemble is dynamite in every way, from the small roles to the large, each member of this large cast performs their part in telling us this love story from start to touching finale. I am pretty sure that you all know the story of what happens in the original “Romeo & Juliet” and that due to circumstances that were “avoidable” our star-crossed lovers find an ending that may not be as you would want or expect, but the story told has meaning for those who see it and this production is certainly one that will open the eyes of those who are one-sided.
Other notable performances in this production, Rhett Guter as Riff, leader of the Jets, Chicago favorite Roger Mueller as Doc, Brett Tuomi as Lt. Shrank and John Gray as Officer Krupke. Maria’s parents are played by Ofelia Ortega and Ruben Serna, and the “Somewhere” soloist in a very special rendition is Lauren Villegas. As someone who has been involved in the Hispanic community for many years, it is nice to see that this cast has many Latinos in it. Gracias, Drury Lane! Once again- great acting, spectacular dance and voices that make the words dance into your minds, hearts and souls. The musical direction (Roberta Duchak does her thing) and the orchestra, under the direction of Ben Johnson fills the theater with this historical musical about hope.
Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m.
Thursdays at 1:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Fridays at 8 p.m.
Saturdays at 5 and 8:30 p.m.
Sundays at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.
Tickets range from $45-$60 with some specials for students and seniors and there are meal packages as well. To place your order, and I strongly suggest you do so ASAP, call 630-530-0111, or Ticketmaster at 800-745-3000 or visit www.drurylane.com
Running time is two hours and twenty minutes with Act One being longer. There are gun shots and I suggest that you use caution in bringing little ones.
Drury lane is located in Oakbrook Terrace just North of the shopping center with lots of free parking. To see what others are saying about this production, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “West Side Story”