Theatre Review: West Side Story at the Landmark
“Somewhere there’s a place for us. We’ll find a new way of living. We’ll find a new way of forgiving…. somewhere.” More than half a century after the 1957 premiere of “West Side Story,” this musical is still helping us search for this utopian place- where regardless of culture, background, and differences, we can all dance together.
West Side Story opened the Richmond leg of its tour last night at the Landmark Theatre, and closed with the audience’s standing ovation.
For those not familiar with the story, this musical variation on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet transports us to the 1950′s-60′s, in the Upper West Side of New York City. An American classic, West Side Story (WSS) features music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and original direction and choreography by Jerome Robbins.
WSS explores a rivalry between the Sharks and the Jets, two teenage street gangs from contrasting ethnic backgrounds. The Puerto Rican Sharks are tantalized by the Polish-American Jets for their alien accents and unfamiliar convention. The young protagonist, Tony, a reformed Jet, plunges into a love affair with Maria, the sister of the Sharks’ leader, Bernardo.
Cast standouts included Michelle Alves as a spirited, fiery Anita. Tony, played by Thaddeus Pearson, showcased powerful vocals in”Maria.” Arianna Rosario, was genuine and believable as the young, sweet Maria, but seemed to begin struggling with her higher vocals towards the end of the evening. The ensemble cast maintained impressive performance strength and gusto, in both vocals and dance.
The amount of increased Spanish in the show, due to the ’09 Broadway revival, only added to the authenticity of this west-side world. “I Feel Pretty,” sung mostly in Spanish, is a spotlight. Apparently not all audiences have connected with this idea of a “foreign” language… hitting a little too close to “west-side” home, with disregard to cultural difference.
Scenic design, by James Youmans, successfully made you believe Broadway, really was, in Richmond for the night. The “bridge scene” was a particularly breathtaking moment, immersing you into this three-dimensional, wonderful transition. Lighting design by Howell Binkley, and sound design from Peter McBoyle’s brilliantly worked together to amplify the drama and thrill within the story.
Focusing on social problems that marked a turning point in America, West Side Story’s provocative yet intoxicating theme still maintains relevance today. The tour further impressed upon me how significant this show truly is. Don’t miss out on your chance to remember!
You can find tickets to today’s last two shows here.
A recent NYC transplant, I'm a writer, dancer, foodie, clothing lover, and sriracha supporter. Having lived in RVA for seven years, I completely adore the River City, and still spend as many days as I can rock-laying on the James. A self proclaimed "vintage voyeur," I think the arts scene of any city can reveal so much... not only about our past, but also our modern day, and where we need to go from here.
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