West Side Story
West Side Story
Book by Arthur Laurents
Music by Leonard Bernstein
Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Directed by Jim Helsinger
Musical Direction by Steve McKinnon
Choreography by Anthoni Raimondi
Starring Marc Koeck and Carly Evans
Orlando Shakespeare Theater, Orlando FL
You can’t really hate someone unless they live right next door, and that’s the problem the PR’s and Bohunks face in post-war New York City. Space is tight, job options are few and clinging to the tribe is the only solace open to the Spanish Sharks and the presumably Polish Jets. But Tony (Koeck) wants out of the cycle; at least he has a dead end job working for Doc (Mark Ferrera), the local pharmacist and voice of reason. The opposing chasm of chaos finds Riff (Drew Foster) leading the Jets; he wants to rumble with Sharks lead by Bernardo (Marco Antonio Santiago). Knives? Chains? Zip guns? Tony suggests a fair fight between two champions, but what fun is that? He has a secret reason for choosing less than total nuclear war; at the neutral territory dance Tony met Bernardo’s young sister Maria (Evans) and in Broadway as in life, sex trumps nationality.
The music stays close to the original production, but the set is mostly cleared out to allow room for dancing. The good songs are the ones you know; “America,” “Tonight” and “Maria” all get the crowd roused, and the principles are all well cast and dripping with racial and sexual energy. Santiago’s Bernardo slips in and out of Spanish charm and Latin blood feud lust easily; meanwhile Koeck’s Tony keeps his elbows in close. On the distaff side, my favorite was the sexy Anita (Karli Dinardo) with her flashing knives of sarcasm; innocent Maria offered great vocals, but always seemed overwhelmed by the towering Mr. Koeck.
The real star of this show is the dancing; from the fantasy “Ballet” to the brutal fights everyone seemed to flow zephyr-like around the stage under the experienced direction of Mr. Raimondi. There’s one really striking set piece; a section of an old rivet and steel bridge lowers down for the rumble scene. During intermission it’s guarded by nervous volunteers; it’s the sort of engineering work that deserves to be inspected by older male official experts with hard hats and hands in tight jeans pockets. And of course, as in any good musical something sticks in your head as you leave; after two days I’m still haunted by the earworm “Officer Krupke.” This is everything you could want in a big time musical: A wonderful show, wonderfully executed.
For more information on Orlando Shakespeare Theater, visit http://www.orlandoshakes.org