WEST SIDE STORY Remains A Vital Part Of American Theatre
Musical relevancy is a hard notion to determine. What was considered groundbreaking fifty years ago now maybe considered superfluous for today’s audience. Not so with the 2009 revival of West Side Story, which returns to Chicago via a non-equity tour by Troika Entertainment. Under the direction of David Saint, who restages Arthur Laurents Latino infused vision, it can be argued that West Side Story is more vital now than it was at its outset.
Gang violence, ethnic strife, police corruption and socio-economic struggles are all front and center in the Jets and Sharks need to protect a certain small section of the block. Turn on any of our news broadcasts or read the front page our papers and you can almost mirror the stories. It is that relateability that makes this as cross-generational theatrical event, and one that should not be missed.
Originally penned in 1957 as an updated version of Romeo and Juliet (and titled East Side Story about the Jews vs Gentiles), West Side Story and its score by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim is considered one of the greatest ever composed. With a reworked book by Mr. Laurents and some of the most inventive choreography by Jerome Robbins, the story become what we know today as the Puerto Ricans and the Polish immigrants claiming ownership to a slice of America.
This current tour brings with it a sensational cast who are arguably as good as any prior incarnations of this show. MaryJoanna Grisso is a no-nonsense Maria, which is a refreshing change from how this role is usually played. Grisso’s Mario knows what she wants and takes charge of it, even though the consequences may be dire. Add to that a crystal clear and powerful soprano (Grisso would also make a terrific Christine in Phantom) and you have a redefined Maria for a new generation.
Addison Reid Coe’s Tony is also spot-on. Though he towers over his muse physically, he is emotionally on par with Ms. Grisso and you never once question the truthfulness and honesty of their love. Mr. Coe also brings down the house holding the high Bflat in Maria, something which many tenors forgo in the score, opting for the alternative arrangement. Michelle Alves nails every scene she is in as Anita and her performance is worth the price of admission alone.
The great performances continue all the way though the ensemble, including Theo Lenciki’s needy Riff, Andres Acosta’s sexy Bernardo, and Guy Mandia, Jr.’s Action, who brings new life to “Gee, Officer Krupke”.
Technically this West Side Story is a superior tour as well. J. Michael Duff’s musical direction is powerful yet intimate in all the right places and the orchestra has never sounded better at the Oriental. James Youman’s half matte, half realistic set design works well in invoking the gritty upper West side streets (although can we please oil the wheels of the roll out balcony?); David C. Woolard’s colorful costumes never are vibrant yet earthy; and Joey McKneely recreates to perfection, Mr. Robbin’s intent.
West Side Story is one of those rare shows that will be relevant as long as we choose love over our own self-preservation. It is a brilliant commentary on the human condition and how our prejudices can be our undoing; and where we can hope for a better time when we can all just get along. Somewhere.
The performance schedule for WEST SIDE STORY is as follows: Tuesday, June 11 at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 12 at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 13 at 7:30 p.m.
Friday, June 14 at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 15 at 2 & 8 p.m. Sunday, June 16 at 2 & 7:30 p.m. Please note: Ticket prices and performance schedule are subject to change.
Tickets for WEST SIDE STORY at the Oriental Theatre range from $18‐$85. A select number of premium seats are also available for many performances. Tickets are available now for groups of 10 or more by calling Broadway In Chicago Group Sales at (312) 977‐1710. Tickets are available at all Broadway In Chicago Box Offices (24 W. Randolph St., 151 W. Randolph St., 18 W. Monroe St. and 175 E. Chestnut), the Broadway In Chicago Ticket Kiosk at Water Tower Place (845 N. Michigan Ave.), the Broadway In Chicago Ticket Line at (800) 775‐2000, all Ticketmaster retail locations and online at www.BroadwayInChicago.com.
For more information, visit www.BroadwayInChicago.com.