note: entire contents copyright 2009 by Beverly Creasey
Here’s the good news. It’s not often you find a feel good production of a musical which is both extremely well done by a company AND reflective of the community it serves, in this case, Hyde Park. The Riverside Theatre Works production of WEST SIDE STORY casts teens from their programs right alongside theater professionals. Many of the adolescents have performed for years at Riverside in children’s theater. Others have worked behind the scenes. It’s a mix that works, adding limitless enthusiasm and palpable energy to a show like WEST SIDE STORY (running through Oct. 25th).
Where another theater company might be left high and dry if they lost a lead, Riverside copes seamlessly. At my performance the role of Anita (“I like to be in America!”) had to be taken over by the show’s director/ choreographer. At intermission we were all scurrying to make sure we had heard the announcement correctly. So perfect was Wendy Hall’s performance, none of us could believe she wasn’t the original actress. If that weren’t enough problems for the production, David Costa (Tony) had a bad throat infection, which he managed to sing over! (Of course, Costa with a sore throat sings better than most singers in good health.)
Aliana Fragoso is one of the sweetest Marias I’ve ever encountered---and her voice is drop dead gorgeous. Her duet (“One hand…One heart”) with Costa was so beautifully acted and sung---- that we were heartbroken, knowing what Tony and Maria don’t. David Carney made Riff a standout and Ryan Martinez made Bernardo a force to be reckoned with. Stacey Stephens’ vacant lot set gave the Jets and Sharks lots of scaffolding to climb on and his costumes for the spectacular “Mambo” seemed right out of the petticoat era. Dr. Michelle Alexander’s music direction paid off in lovely harmonies and the trio made you forget that a synthesizer, not an orchestra was providing those delicate strings.