The question of “How can you see the same show over and over?” is one that I am asked over and over. The answer becomes clearer and clearer as I see new productions of old favorites. Every production is a NEW one. A different stage, set, director, cast and musicians makes for a different play. Unlike a film which is constant, “live theater” relies on new interpretations and even the audience plays into the total picture. As we made our way to The Paramount Theatre in Aurora for yet another production of “West Side Story” (it seems that there is an annual rendition) , my mind drifted to what could director Jim Corti do to make his production “his production?” At 8:08 p.m. the curtain rose and the orchestra began to play Leonard Bernstein’s “Prologue” introducing us to the neighborhood and the Sharks and the Jets. At that moment, the magic began. Tom Vendafreddo and his orchestra took over and for the next two-and-a-half-hours a spellbound audience, many who have seen this musical many times, could feel the tragedy of the book by Arthur Laurents and the lyrics of Stephen Sondheim. What a night!
“West Side Story” was conceived by famed director/choreographer Jerome Robbins and while most directors and choreographers follow his lead, Corti has made adjustments in time and space as has choreographer William Carlos Angulo. This is a “dance” musical with the feeling of Ballet infused with Jazz and this cast of young, energetic dancers is absolutely terrific to watch. Every movement is specific and yet appears to be as natural as walking from here to there. It is magical from start to finish. The story is about two rival gangs on the streets of New York. The Jets who have lived all their lives in the “hood” and the new-comers, the Sharks, Puerto Ricans. What we experience is looking in at the “turf-war” between these gangs. The Sharks leader, Bernardo (deftly handled by Alexander Aguilar) has just brought his sister, Maria ( the vivacious Zoe Nadal) to New York to marry his right hand man , Chino (Anthony Sullivan Jr.). At her first dance, she meets Tony (a powerful interpretation by Will Skrip) a former Jet and the chemistry begins.
One is reminded of the inspiration of “Romeo and Juliet” , Shakespeare’s tragedy of teen-age love between dueling families. The families in this case are the gangs and Tony and Maria become Romeo & Juliet. The tragedy is one that is seen on a daily basis in most major cities as the gangs still fight over “turf”. Every week-end brings violence and death to the streets of our cities and this play was written back in the 1950’s. Today, it might even be worse! The gang situation still exists and racial problems, as we all know are still a major concern , as is police brutality which is also shown in this production. Anita (stunningly played by Mary Antonini), Bernardo’s girl is as fine a singer as a dancer and her rendition of “America” is absolutely perfect(with her on this one, Adrienne Storrs as Rosalia)
The beauty of this story is that for one brief shining moment, for Tony and Maria, there is no hatred, no barriers, no race. Only two young people who have found that special person that they want to spend the rest of their lives with. The only problem, of course, is that this cannot happen due to race, hatred and barriers. Corti and his crew capture all the feeling and emotions of the story with a wonderful set(Kevin Depinet), special lighting effects (Jesse Klug), costumes (Theresa Ham) solid projections (Mike Tutaj) props (Sarah E. Ross) and sound (Adam Rosenthal). The fighting and violence put together by R & D Choreography (Victor Bayona and Richard Gilbert) works well and the ensemble ( a key to the success of this production) is amazing: Riff , the leader of the Jets (Jeff Smith), Ryan McBride, James Lee, Jonny Stein, Samuel Owen Gardner, Liam Quealy and Aaron Patrick Craven- The Sharks- Jorge Quintero, Alejandro Fonseca, Joe Musiel, Aaron Umsted and Fernando Rodriguez. The girls: Allyson Graves, Erin Kilmurray, Ashley Elizabeth Smith, Tiffany Krause, Jillian Endebrock and Aubrey Adams as Anybodys (the tom-boy who wants nothing more than to be a Jet), Francesca Arostegui, Brittany Amoroso, Kasey Alfonso and Elana Romanowski. The four adults in the show are played by Tom McElroy (Doc), Joe Dempsey (Schrank), Joe Foust (Krupke) and Larry Baldacci (Glad Hand). This is a huge cast, but one that brings energy and excitement to each scene. BRAVO!Photo credit: Liz Lauren.
The music from this musical is part of the magic and under the direction of Vendafreddo and his orchestra, we get to hear every note of “Something’s Coming”, “Tonight”, “One Hand, One Heart”, “I Feel Pretty”, “A Boy Like That/I Have a Love”, the hysterical “Gee, Officer Krupke” and of course “Somewhere” and “Maria”. There is magic, in every song, every dance number and the chemistry that this amazing cast brings to the stage at The Paramount. This is one to add to you “MUST SEE ” list. It is worth the ride to Aurora for sure. “West Side Story” will continue at The Paramount Theatre located at 8 East Galena Boulevard (downtown Aurora) thru April 24th with performances as follows:
|Wednesdays:||1:30pm & 7:00pm|
|Saturdays:||3:00pm & 8:00pm|
|Sundays:||1:00pm & 5:30pm|
Price: $41 – $56
Show Type: Musical
Box Office: 630-896-6666
There is valet parking at the door ($11.00) and parking on the streets of town as well as local lots. Check out the area for some fine and inexpensive dining as well.
To see what others are saying, visit www,theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “West Side Story”. Even if you have seen a production before, you owe it to yourself to see this version. You will be blown away!