Friday June 23rd 2017

“West Side Story”

1957! That was the year that “West Side Story”opened on Broadway. The original direction and choreography by Jerome Robbins was something very special- a “musical Ballet” is what many called this musical tragedy based on the love story of “Romeo and Juliet”, but set in New York and instead of families in dispute, it was rival gangs- the Puerto Ricans who migrated from their island to find work and better jobs and the “gringos” , mostly Polish who were unhappy about the change in their “hood”. With a magnificant score by Leonard Bernstein and the satirical lyrics by Sondheim and Laurents, “West Side Story” brought great change to the world of “Musical Theater”. Here it is, over 50 years later, and audiences are still captured by this passionate work. ( a little side note- the original script was the friction between Jews and Gentiles during the period of Passover/Easter- I am very thankful they decided to go the route they did, or we may never have had a chance to hear the wonderful score).

The revival for “West Side Story”, which is the changed version now on the stage of The Cadillac Palace Theatre as part of the Broadway In Chicago season, hit Broadway in 2009, and played more performances than the original. Most people know the movie ( which I was not find of) and have seen productions at regional theaters,High schools  and colleges, BUT not like this one. It has been revived and revised by two of the original creators, Arthur Laurents ( who did the book) and Stephen Sondheim ( Lyrics). They dusted off the original words and brought them into our world today. They have also added Spanish into the script and into the songs. While there were some audience members dismayed over this, I found it to be more realistic and had no problem knowing what they were saying. I will say that in a few songs, the original symetry was gone and I am sure Sondheim did all he could to avoid this happening.

Touring companies, even when they stay for more than a few weeks do not have the most elaborate of sets, but I was very impressed with the realism of the “Rumble” set. Watching it fall into place is an amazing experience. Director David Saint took on the task of recreating a masterpiece ( Jerome Robbins was a magician) and Joey McKneely handled th re-choreography. While they both used the original work, they made some modifications, again a sign of the times, but it appears they have both studied Robbins and put a production on stage that he would have been proud of.

This is a young energetic ensemble and as you know, to me the ensemble is the key to bringing the magic to life. From the “Prologue” until the end, there are no slow moments in this love story that has brought tears to my eyes  many times. With powerful songs “Something’s Coming”, “Maria”, “One Hand,One Heart”, “Tonight”, “I Feel Pretty”, “A Boy Like That/I Have A Love”,’America” and the hysterical “Gee,Officer Krupke” ( talk about revised! and Drew Foster as Action is perfect), how  can you not be entertained. While Tony ( Kyle Harris) looked the part, I found his voice to be a little weak, but  the adorable Ali Ewoldt  is as powerful a Maria as I have seen Michelle Aravena brings just the right touch to Anita and German Santiago had the flair of Bernardo and is a great dancer. In fact the dancing is worth the price of a ticket alone. As I said earlier, it is like watching a ballet, listening to a great classical concert and seeing a musical rolled into one.

The Sharks and Jets and their ladies were all quality dancers and even the character actors ( the adults” handled their roles  with the right touch.  This production is clean with great tech, lighting and costumes for a  touring show and the sound system may have had a few problems on the opening night; one that I am sure will be fixed quickly. This production will remain in Chicago through  August 14th at The Cadillac Palace Theatre located at 151 West Randolph Street with performances as follows:

Tuesdays 7:30 p.m.,Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.,Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 p.m.,Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. ( on Sunday,7/24 there will also be a 7:30 p.m. performance)

Tickets range from $32-$95 and are available at all Broadway In Chicago box offices,by calling the Broadway In Chicago Ticketline at 800-775-2000, at all Ticketmaster outlets and online at www.BroadwayInChicago.com

need more info, visit www.BroadwayInChicago.com or www.BroadwayWestSideStory.com

 

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