note: entire contents copyright 2016 by Richard Pacheco
“West Side Story” is a beloved Americana musical classic. The current production at Theatre by the Sea is vibrant with some stunning dancing and exceptional singers in the lead of Tony and Maria. It is long though, that first act gets really long, 90 minutes.
The story is the modernization retelling of Romeo and Juliet set in downtown NYC. It started when choreographer Jerome Robbins approached Arthur Laurents and Leonard Bernstein about the musical idea. Sondheim later came on board with his debut as a lyricist. It was set in the 1950’s and focused on the rivalry of two gangs, and a war in culture clash.
Bronson Norris Murphy is Tony, who helped found the Jets but ahs somewhat left it behind to work at Doc’s store. He is a young man just going through his life until meeting up with Maria at a dance. Then, his whole life and attitude change. He leaps into this ill considered and doomed affair with all his heart and the consequences are tragic. Murphy is poised and energetic, and his voice is outstanding. He shines in songs like “Maria” or his duet with Maria, “Tonight”
Maria is played by Evy Ortiz who is perky, energetic and engaging. As the young Puerto Rican woman who is recently arrived in the city from Puerto Rico and is a seamstress and somewhat innocent of the conflicts in the big city. Her voice is superb, full of richness and emotion. She shines in her duet with Tony, “Tonight” or later in “One Hand, One Heart” another duet.
Tyler John Logan is Riff who co-founded the Jets with Tony. He is cocky and self assured while always trying to be cool. He is outstanding in the “Jets song which opens the musical and in “The Rumble” song under the highway.
Alexander Gil Cruz is Maria’s brother Bernardo, who is proud of his heritage and totally distrust the Americans. He is energetic and convincing in the role,
Another fine addition to the cast is Dana Hunter as Anita, Bernardo’s girl. She too has a strong voice and shines in “America” which she sings with the Sharks girls and the wining duet with Maria, “A Boy Like That/I Have A Love.”
The supporting cast is top notch with some fabulous dancing and robust energy.
Director Bob Richard makes good use of his talented cast. It is unfortunate that the musical runs so long and because of the long dance numbers slows down in the first act. But the dancing is simply remarkable.
Musical Director by Samuel Thorne Baglia and his conducting is on target.
The dancing dominates this production it is simply dazzling dancing. It is energetic and vibrant full of energy and audacity. The Diane Laurenson choreography is impeccable.
Kyle Dixon’s scenic design is vivid and impressionistic, very evocative and effective how it hints at an inner city tangle of places from the stoop outside a building to under the highway and more.