Theatre Mirror Reviews - "West Side Story"

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entire contents copyright 2006 by Tony Annicone

"West Side Story"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Bay Colony's current show is the classic 1957 musical "West Side Story". Based on Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet'', the story is as fresh and meaningful to contemporary audiences as it was in 1591 for the original play as well as in the 1950's, too. Hatred and violence don't solve problems they create new ones while love and understanding are the solutions in real life as it is in both shows. The well known story of Tony and Maria takes place in New York City. The outside forces of friends, enemies, gang members and adults keep them from fulfilling their dream of everlasting happiness due to hatred and bigotry. This 31 member cast is well directed by Bill Cunningham, splendid musical direction by Rob Goldman and high energy and athletic choreography by Dori Bryan. This magnificent show delivers the goods in a powerful and moving presentation, propelling the audience to their feet at its conclusion, making it one of the must see shows of this summer season.

Bill brings out the best acting talents of his entire cast in a wonderful mixture of the comic and tragic aspects of this show while Rob Goldman's expertise with his orchestra and the cast comes shining through in the musical numbers with their exquisite harmonies. The quintet of "Tonight" is one of the highlights of stunning vocal talent of this cast. One of the most important ingredients of "West Side Story" is the choreography. Dori creates some excellent dances and her hard working cast execute the numerous dances perfectly especially in "Prologue", "Dance at the Gym", "America" "Cool" and the breathtaking "Somewhere" which is given an excellent rendition by Jaclyn Coppens and Sanjay Merchant. Dori also choreographs the "Rumble" and the nightmare fight segment in "Somewhere". Both the male and female dancers are topnotch and are some of the most athletic dancers I have ever seen. Bravo. The costumes by Dan Kozar are gorgeous and fit the time period perfectly while the set design by Dan and Michael Teixeira consisting of fire escape and roof top is wonderful, too. Michael also stage manages this enormous show and designed the many lighting cues, too. The excellent sound system is by Ed DiMarzio whose microphones amplified the voices so every word and lyric could be heard.

The two leads are fantastic in this show. Chas Kircher as Tony exudes the youthful charm of this role but it is his strong tenor voice that captures the beauty and intensity of all his numbers from "Something's Coming" to "Maria" where he hits the high notes beautifully and in the duets, "Tonight" and "One Hand, One Heart". Chas' acting runs the gamut of emotions from love at first sight to the ensuing exuberant pure love to the horror of killing someone to the anguish of thinking your true love is dead and to finally making the death scene believable. Lianne Gennaco as Maria is superb as this young Puerto Rican girl. She shows the girl's naivete at the start of the show as well as the transition to a stronger one by the close of the night by the tragic events she lived through. Lianne has a magnificent soprano voice which soars off the charts. Her duets of "Tonight" and "One Hand" are excellent as is her comic turn in "I Feel Pretty". Her acting prowess comes through during the whole show but the most powerful moments are in the duet "A Boy Like That" and in the final speech where she condemns hatred after Tony's death. Kudos to two strong and talented leads.

The two gang leaders Riff and Bernardo are wonderfully played by Jason Hair-Wynn and Chris Mack. Not only are they top notch actors in their confrontation and death scenes but are excellent dancers, too. Jason sings the lead in the "Jet Song" and in "Cool". Bernardo's girlfriend, Anita is wonderfully played by Christiana Rodi. She shows off her strong singing voice in "America" with Alicia Rivera as the dumb girl who wants to return to San Juan ( the girls and guys do a fabulous dance in this comic song) as well as in "A Boy Like That" a dramatic song with Lianne that moves the audience to tears. Christiana shows Anita's anguish and anger in the duet as well as in the assault scene in the drugstore where she tells the Jets that Maria is dead. The Jet gang members are awesome dancers who all sing and act well, too. The hot headed Action is played by John Hardin. He is always ready to pounce on the enemy. The comic song, "Officer Krupke" is about Action's depraved behavior and is a comic gem in this show. 15 year old Tristan Viner-Brown as Baby John, is the youngest gang member who gets to play the female social worker in the song. (I first saw Tristan in "The King & I" at Theatre by the Sea when he was 10 years old and he was an excellent actor back then, too.) Mike Warner plays Diesel who starts to fight Bernardo at the rumble while dance captain Chris Kane plays A-rab, one of the mouthier gang members who dances up a storm plays the case worker in the song. The other gang members are Grant Lepine, Devin Marchany and Becky Geggatt as Anybodys, the tomboy who finally gets to join the gang. Justin Budinoff does a great job as Chino who is supposed to marry Maria and eventually kills Tony in anger. The ineffectual adults in the show are played by Ron Brinn as Doc, the weak willed drugstore owner, Bill Roberts as the mean spirited, crass Lt. Shrank, Chris DiOrio as the comic Officer Krupke and Jim Sullivan as the flamboyant high school teacher, Glad Hand. Kudos to everyone who made this a must see show. So for an excellent rendition of this classic show, be sure to catch at the Orpheum Theatre in Foxboro before time runs out.

"West Side Story" (28 July - 6 August)
Orpheum Theatre, 1 School Street, FOXBORO MA
1 (508) 543-ARTS

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