By Jen Anderson
We all know the story: Two disputing groups. Forbidden love. Love at first sight. Selfless loyalty. Selfish ignorance. Death. It’s the classic Romeo and Juliet story. Although it parallels the storyline of Romeo and Juliet, the story of West Side Story is notoriously known for being ingenious. It’s perhaps even more ingenious than Shakespeare’s original work.
The story takes place in 1950’s New York. The disputing groups: a classic American gang called the “Jets” and a Hispanic immigrant gang from Puerto Rico that goes by the name of the “Sharks”. The two lovers: Tony of the Jets and Maria, the younger sister of the lead in the Sharks. It’s modern and creative. But when you add in balletic flamenco dance numbers along with an amazing compilation of music, this is where the true magic sets in.
West Side Story is a musical that everyone should see at least once. It’s a heart wrenching story that leaves you wanting more. Each song gives you chills running down your spine.
This adaptation of West Side Story, currently showing at the Overture Center for the Arts, is wonderful bliss. The casting was well thought out, making Maria (Mary-Joanna Grisso) and Tony’s (Addison Reid Coe) love seem even more believable. Riff’s character (Theo Lencicki) makes your heart skip a beat. Even the simplest of characters like Doc and Officer Krupke fit convincingly. Although each song was Broadway-esque, the talent of singing varied throughout the cast. Maria’s voice was smooth and rich whereas Tony’s pitch was limited and, at times, marginally less impressive than Maria’s.
The most impressive element of the show was, with no question, the choreography. Perhaps I’m biased being trained 15 years in ballet, but the dancing was spectacular. The Jets and Sharks “rumble” dancing was flawless, making their fight even more interesting than if there had actually been real punches thrown. The large dance numbers like “Dance at the Gym”, “America”, and “Somewhere” were synchronized to a tee. Anita’s dancing (Michelle Alves), particularly during “Somewhere”, was the most tantalizing of the entire cast.
In a whole, the show was priceless: both figuratively and literally. The show is a great opportunity to enrich your sense of the arts while watching a timeless story. As well, for students at UW-Madison, student rushing can provide tickets for at a fraction of the actual cost.
West Side Story is showing at the Overture Center Center for the Arts now through Sunday, February 17. For ticket information visit www.overaturecenter.com