BWW Reviews: WEST SIDE STORY at Westchester Broadway Theatre

Published: Monday, April 27, 2015 By: Kathryn Kitt Source: Broadway World

One of the greatest shows in the history of American musical theatre, West Side Story, has made a triumphant return at The Westchester Broadway Theatre. With its combination of Leonard Bernstein's breathtaking score, Stephen Sondheim's lyrics, Arthur Laurent's book, and Jerome Robbin's spellbinding choreography, West Side Story is relevant today as when it premiered in 1957.

The musical's star-crossed lovers--taken from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet--are transported to the Manhattan's Upper West Side. Instead of Capulets and Montagues, there are The Sharks (Puerto Ricans) The Jets (Americans). When Tony, a Jet, falls for Maria, the sister of a Shark, both worlds are turned upside down.

Much of the original choreography is intact in this energetic production. From the "Prologue" straight on through to "Cool", the dancers execute their moves with grace and pizazz. The "Dance at the Gym", starring The Jets and The Sharks, is especially thrilling. It perfectly conveys the tension between the two gangs.

Barry McNabb has directed and choreographed his actors and ensemble to stay true to the heart of the story. Carly Evans as Maria and Zach Trimmer as Tony are heartbreaking and believable. Both sing with beautiful line in their solos and duets. From the balcony scene in "Tonight" to the mock wedding with "One Hand, One Heart", their chemistry is palpable. Allison Thomas Lee as Anita and Brandon Contreras as Bernardo compliment the two leads with strong characterizations. Their witty banter in "America" offers needed comic relief, and is also a highlight of the show.

The "Tonight" Quintet remains one of the most thrilling moments of counterpoint in any musical, and Ryan Edward Wise does not disappoint. His musical direction is very strong in other numbers too, with beautiful harmonies and ensemble.

My one issue lies with the orchestra. While I know that Westchester Broadway Theatre is an intimate environment, the sound was not as robust and full as Bernstein's score demands. Perhaps that had to do with the sound design, but I am sure it will be worked out as the show continues its run.

Still, as the pathos and tragedy culminate, the audience is fully invested in Tony and Maria's story. Will their worlds co-exist--or kill each other? During the "Somewhere Ballet" in Act II, it really seems possible that there will be "a place for us." For a couple of hours, Westchester Broadway Theatre makes us all believers.