Theater review: West Side Story

Taut, colorful, its vitality rocketing off the stage, this fireworks West Side Story amply demonstrates the enduring timelessness of the great classic.

November 3, 2013 22:04
1 minute read.
West Side Story

West Side Story 370. (photo credit: Alastair Muir)


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West Side Story
Reproduced and directed by Joey McNeely
TA Opera House, October 31

Taut, colorful, its vitality rocketing off the stage, this fireworks West Side Story amply demonstrates the enduring timelessness of a great classic, and WSS is that.

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We all know that WSS is Romeo and Juliet translated to the (then) slums of the Upper West Side, that Verona’s feuding families have become rival youth gangs, the Polish-American Jets and the immigrant Puerto-Rican Sharks, that the “star-cross’d lovers” are Tony (Jets) and Maria (Sharks), and that tragedy prowls the mean streets of New York as it does the palaces and squares of Verona.

It’s Bernstein’s clarion music, by turns lyrical, by turns savage, that drives WSS, sharply augmented by Robbins’ visceral, beyond-brilliant choreography. Conductor Donald Chan and his orchestra keep tight yet expressive rein on the one and Joey McNeely’s sumptuous dancers fully realize the other.

There are two Tonys, Anthony Festa and Thaddeus Pearson. We saw Pearson whose Tony combines a pure lyric tenor with a moving tenderness.

The two Marias are sopranos Jessica Soza and Rachel Zatcoff, with the latter on stage. The scenes between them build emotionally and vocally, with the richly-voiced Zatcoff fully coming into her own when she sings the glorious “Somewhere there’s a place for us.”

That number, with the entire company dressed in white, is almost other-worldly dazzling.

The other principals are also brilliant: Penelope Armstead- Williams is a sizzling, graceful Anita – the Shark girls’ barefoot “America” is another highlight.

Charles South’s feral, brooding Bernardo compels, as does Mark McKillop’s edgy, uneasy Riff.

And there’s a couple more things. This WSS is a touring company.

It’s done the show many times and yet the show we saw was as adrenalin- fueled as a first night. And this same show, with a different cast, was here in 2009 and was just as fine.

Is this a brilliant production? It is. Is this a rave review? You betcha.

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