West Side Story
West Side Story – Theater Review
A musical Romeo and Juliet story. The Sharks and the Jets are two feuding street gangs in 1950’s New York, the Jets being White and the Sharks being Puerto Rican. At a dance at a gym, Jet Tony falls in love with a Shark’s sister, Maria. They know they can’t be together because of the gang’s war, but that doesn’t stop them.
“West Side Story” was incredibly electric, and timely, when it was first performed in, believe it or not, 1957. So fast forward 50 years, the dancing is still electric. It is still Jerome Robbins at his best. Some of the songs will resonate forever. The problem about this production is that it really does seem dated. While Matt Cavenaugh and Josefina Scaglione are charming and have lovely voices, Karen Olivo, as Anita, is really the only one who connects. The guys who are in the Sharks and Jets are wonderfully athletic, probably even more so than the dancers 50 years ago. The lack of chemistry between the leads, the clunky scene changes adding to the length is exacerbated by the fact that three of the best songs are in Spanish, which to me makes no sense. If you want to do the whole production in Spanish, so be it. If you want to do, certain phrases in Spanish that makes some sense. But to do three of songs, including “I Feel Pretty,” in Spanish makes no sense. Unless the audience doesn’t understand Spanish, and those that do don’t understand the rest of the play. So I don’t exactly understand the point of that. Also, moving Officer Grumpke, which is the comic relief of the entire production, to the second act, after the murders, makes no sense at all. It’s completely jarring. So, West Side Story, four stars for the dancers. For the rest of it, maybe a one. So let’s average it up to a two for West Side Story. Two stars.