Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern
West Side Story
Also see John's review of Ghost-Writer
The original Broadway production of West Side Story opened at the Winter Garden Theatre on September 26, 1957. The production ran for 732 performances and received two Tony Awards before touring and then returning to the Winter Garden Theatre in 1960 for another 253 performances. In 1961 the musical was turned into a film starring Natalie Wood and Rita Moreno which earned 10 Academy Awards. A Broadway revival opened on February 14, 1980, at the Minskoff Theatre and closed after 333 performances on November 30, 1980. A second revival opened on Broadway at the Palace Theatre on March 19, 2009 and closed on January 2, 2011, after 748 performances. The production, which earned a Tony Award for Karen Olivo as Anita, wove Spanish lyrics and dialogue into the English libretto with translations by Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim has been described as "the greatest and perhaps best-known artist in the American musical theatre." In addition to writing the lyrics for West Side Story and Gypsy, his other work includes the musicals A Little Night Music, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Company, Do I Hear a Waltz?, Follies, Pacific Overtures, Anyone Can Whistle, Merrily We Roll Along, Sweeney Todd, Sunday In The Park With George, Into The Woods, Passion and Assassins. He is the recipient of seven Tony Awards (more than any other composer), two Grammy Awards, the 1990 Academy Award for Best Song for "Sooner or Later" from Dick Tracy, the 1985 Pulitzer Prize in Drama for Sunday In The Park With George, the Kennedy Center Honors for Lifetime Achievement in 1993 and a Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre in 2008.
Ali Ewoldt (Maria) has a beautiful singing voice. While her Puerto Rican accent sounds stilted at times and she has a few off acting moments, she has a wonderful chemistry with as Cary Tedder as Tony. They show a tender and youthful passion between the characters that speaks of the inevitably tenuous nature of the romance. Cary Tedder plays Tony almost distractedly introspective at first. He is awakened by the presence of Maria as though it is through her that his new purpose is found. Tedder has a lovely, reedy sounding tenor voice, which he uses best in the upper part of his register and in well-placed falsetto notes. His Tony comes off as young and callow, but this truly works to the advantage of the plotit reminds the audience that these are teenagers playing at being adults. The stakes are not just a few blocks of street, or a couple of broken hearts, but the devastatingly real loss of life. Ewoldt and Tedder complement each other nicely as his youthfulness seems to bring out a womanly quality in her that becomes so important in their final scene.
Talented supporting leads Joseph J. Simeone as Riff, and German Santiago as Bernardo, both bring the right edge and attitude to their roles. Michelle Aravena is a bit bland as Anita, somewhat lacking in the fire and spice that often makes this the role one that steals the show (as was done by Tony Award winner Karen Olivo in the 2009 Broadway Revival). While John O'Creagh nearly throws away the potentially endearing role of Doc by under acting it, Steven De Rosa manages to find as much humor in his role as possible in a memorable cameo as Glad Hand.
In this production of West Side Story Jerome Robbins' brilliant choreography is faithfully recreated by Joey McKneely, and meticulously executed by a talented cast cast of dancers. Robbins gives us inner-city gang members whose dance movements manifest the powerful range of their emotions. He translates the passion, tension, fury and joy of the characters into dance the "Somewhere" ballet is beautifully danced, bringing a sweet respite to the tension of the scenes around it. Kravis Center lighting downstage seemed a bit off (too dark) in this scene as well as the opening gang scene. An unusual take on "Somewhere" features tomboy and Jett wannabe Anybodys singing the song. Since the scene is a dream of a peaceful future, it could be that she or Baby John, as the two youngest gang members, may rightfully be the best ones to sing it in the hopeful manner in which it is meant. The "Dance at the Gym," particularly a Mambo section filled with heat and desire, is wondrous to watch. The contemporary style of the period and the Latin flavor of the dance mix together intoxicatingly. The choreography for the males gang members is inspired: athletic, aggressive, at times even mocking and comedic. The dancing is truly a joy to watch.
This production of West Side Story is scheduled to appear through March 13, 2011, on the Marden Stage of Dreyfoos Hall, in the Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts. The Kravis Center for the Performing Arts is located at 701 Okeechobee Boulevard in West Palm Beach, Florida. For tickets to this show, and/or information on their season, you may contact them by phone at 561-832-7469 (561-832-SHOW) or 1-800-572-8471 (1-800-KRAVIS-1), or online at www.kravis.org. For more information on this tour visit www.broadwaywestsidestory.com.
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The actors and stage managers in this production are members of Actors' Equity Association, the union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.