A new twist on the Shakespearean play Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story tells the tale of Tony and Maria, two star-crossed lovers who meet at a dance held on neutral territory between two rivaling "families" together: a white gang, the Jets, that Tony was a part of, and a Puerto Rican gang, the Sharks, that Maria's brother Bernardo is the leader of. In 1957, this play became a legend, entrancing millions of people by the memorable songs, amazing characters, and the heartbreaking story. Whenever it is remade, hardcore fans of the original look upon it with a critical eye, but this performance was different.
The set and technical crew was like nothing I've ever seen before. Everything was moved mechanically, and the transitions between scenes were amazingly quick, leaving the audience in wonder. The lighting was beautiful, perfectly reflecting the time of day and the setting. The screens used were enchanting: a chain linked fence, a dreamy haze of colors, a wall of graffiti.
The choreography was impressive; the dancers had beautiful, fluid movements and never broke character, even if they were just swaying in the background. Each specific dance reflected the emotions being conveyed, especially "Somewhere," as the two main characters dream about a place without prejudice, and "Prologue," where we meet the two rival gangs, the Jets and the Sharks. Each actor was efficient, perfectly timed and never anticipated the next move. The fights were amazing, and the chaotic movement was organized and deliberate.
The music and the songs were equally impressive. Kyle Harris's Tony had a powerful and smooth voice, best showcased in "Something's Coming." The vibrato and harmonies in the male gang members' singing added texture and feeling to the old songs, and the Puerto Rican women were incredibly hilarious in their rendition of "America." The only thing that was disappointing was the lack of an orchestra pit. It was incredibly evident which sounds were genuine instruments, and which were performed upon a synthesizer, but the music was emotional and well-performed nevertheless. Justin Hoscoe, an attending CMHS student said, “Westside Story was pretty good, but the best part was definitely the music! ‘Somewhere’ was a beautiful song!”
The actual acting of the show had the audience in laughter and tears. Stephen deRosa's Glad Hand had the audience in an uproar after his failed Spanish to the Puerto Ricans, and Christopher Patrick Mullen's Lt. Schrank had the audience hating him from the moment he stepped upon the stage. The relationship between Ali Ewoldt's Maria and Michelle Aravena's Anita was warm hearted and sweet, and the love between Tony and Maria was passionate without being cheesy. The emotional depth of all of these characters working towards the final climax had the audience in waterworks as they gave a standing ovation at the end of the show. Sarah Yuen, a CMHS student said, “The play was amazing, I especially liked the twist with the Puerto Ricans speaking Spanish. The only negative was Maria’s bad vowel tones while singing at times.”
Amazingly performed and written, this revival of West Side Story did not disappoint, and conveyed once more to an audience of first time viewers and die hard fans that this tragic tale of love and prejudice is one of the most beautiful stories of all time.
Written By: Loralee Sepsey