The beloved musical West Side Story is currently touring North America, and I got the chance to experience the show during its brief Vancouver stay. This production, based on the 2009 Tony-award winning Broadway revival directed by the late Arthur Laurents (who also wrote the book), gets a grittier, more authentic staging that weaves Spanish lyrics and dialogue throughout the show, but retains all the signature moves and songs that made it an American stage and screen classic. So does this Story deserve your time and dollars, or should you just say adios and skip it? Read on!
The Good: The original Jerome Robbins choreography, painstakingly recreated by Joey McKneely, is absolutely joyful to watch. And this youthful ensemble pulls off the intricacies of these signature dance moves with ease and gusto. Jarrad Biron Green and MaryJoanna Grisso as star-crossed lovers Tony and Maria are vocal dynamos, and their glorious renditions of the classics “Tonight”, “One Hand, One Heart”, and “Somewhere” are exquisitely beautiful. But the true cast standout is the feisty Michelle Alves as Anita; this girl is on fuego!
The Gay: The boys. Yum. I could watch these hot Anglos and Latinos rumble via ballet fight moves anytime! Leading man Green is a cutie; he’s like a deliciously boyish mix of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Glee’s Darren Criss and Dr. Who‘s Matt Smith. Michael Spencer Smith as Shark leader Bernardo is one smoldering tall drink of agua. And is it me, but doesn’t A-rab (Justin Joseph Laguna) and Baby John (Sam Rohloff) seem awfully close? Like more than besties/secret couple kinda close. Hmm…
The Bad: The choice to weave Spanish throughout the show was a cool move, but the accents were a bit too thick at times that it’s hard to discern what they’re saying. Sometimes the set pieces come flying in and out too swiftly that it’s jarring. And it took me awhile to warm up to Maria and Tony’s almost instantaneous romance. Like who falls in love that quickly? Seriously.
The Fugly: The look on my face after bawling my eyes out, crying from witnessing such a beautiful theatrical spectacle for the past two and a half hours.
West Side Story- ‘Cool’ or clunky?: Overall, this production is a fresh restaging of a true American musical theater gem. Some may say this show is dated, but the choreography and the music truly hold up after all these years. Definitely take a walk on the West Side to check this Story out, Daddy-O!
For more information about West Side Story on tour, as well as other touring productions, visit:
Broadway Across Canada: http://www.broadwayacrosscanada.ca/
Broadway Across America: http://www.broadwayacrossamerica.com/