West Side Story, the modern day retelling of Romeo & Juliet is probably one of the greatest stage musicals ever written. It is additionally a very important lesson about our negative opinions of people who are different than we are and the consequences these opinions can have.
With that in mind, I had high expectations for the current tour of this production, and it does not disappoint With Book by Arthur Laurents, Music by Leonard Bernstein and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim West Side Story has quite a pedigree.
I was initially worried about the pace as the show opened, I found the show intentionally builds intensity throughout and this only adds to the power of this show. This show doesn't really begin until Anita and Maria enter. Once they do this show enthralls to the end.
The story is fresh and modern with content that would not have ever even have been considered for the original production. The scene in Doc's where the Jets' attack Anita was intense, but really shows how our prejudices can make us do horrible unthinkable things.
“Tonight” offers one of the best moments of musical theater I have ever experienced. They have recreated the split screen from the movie in a crisp and vivid way that I would have thought not possible. The way they create four separate scenes simultaneously is bone chilling and this number alone is worth the cost of admission.
In a day when much of what we see on Broadway has a filmed version WSS makes that transition in a way that is lacking in so many modern productions. Maybe it is the fact that WSS was a movie based on the stage and not the other way around. Maybe it is the fact that film was not as advanced when WSS was made. Whatever the reason, it works.
The sets, while Broadway caliber are simple allowing the audience to focus on the story. Sadly, the story and the lesson it teaches are as needed today as it was back in the fifties. As I watch this show, I am reminded of the saying “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”
I find myself attending many modern musicals struggling to find the song that I will have stuck in my head as I exit the theater, the one I will be humming all the way home. This is not an issue for WSS. Every song is a classic.
Michelle Alves gives the role of Anita what I have only seen when played by the character’s originator Rita Moreno. She is fun and sassy, the kind of person you would want to hang out with at a party. She balances that with a raw and personal side that makes you feel so connected and invested in this character. You feel the fun and the pain as if she was that friend you like to hang out with. The time she spends on stage is electric.
The chemistry between Addison Reid Coe as Tony and Maryjoanna Grisso as Maria is amazing. The connection between these two onstage is so great that the first time they see each other, they dance and without a word, you instantly feel the connection, the emotion. By the time they make it to “Tonight” you will be rooting for their love.
WSS is a classic to be sure, but this production looks at the sixty year old story through a fresh lens and we are the beneficiaries. West Side Story plays Bass Hass through Sunday, January 20th. Tickets are $38.50-$99.00 and available at basshall.com. The Broadway at the Bass season continues with the amazing Memphis, Million Dollar Quartet, Peter Pan and Sister Act. Season ticket packages are still available at basshall.com. The Bass is always a great night of theater it is your best option for Broadway in North Texas bar none!
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