note: entire contents copyright 2006 by Beverly Creasey
So what happens when the lead in a musical gets sick? When it’s small budget community theater, if he can walk, he goes on. Brent Reno, one of Boston’s favorite leading men (the best Frederick I’ve seen in a long time in the Publick Theatre’s PIRATES OF PENZANCE) could barely put one foot in front of the other last weekend but he was playing Tony in WEST SIDE STORY and there’s not much story without Tony falling in love with Maria.
We all know that “the show must go on” and it did, thanks to trouper Reno--- with a sumptuous performance by Mala Bhattacharya as Maria, a sensational spitfire of an Anita by Melinda Mogel and a charismatic bad boy of a Bernardo in Eli Hannuna. Director Nancy Curran Willis kept the action lively and Jennifer Condon made magic with her vivid choreography (which fit, believe it or not, on the postage stamp sized Arlington Friends of the Drama stage).
Proof positive that the show worked, even for the children in the audience, came in the form of a five or six year old boy seated in the row ahead of mine. After the explosive Jets ballet in the “Cool” number, where the gang members can barely contain their anger, the little boy cried out his own loud, enthusiastic “pow.” Unfortunately it was during the next scene but we really didn’t mind because he loved that excitement on stage so much, he wanted to be part of it. Who could ask for anything more?