Through October 6|
WEST SIDE STORY MusicalFare Theatre/Daemen College
“West Side Story” is an American musical classic, Jerome Robbins, Arthur Laurents, Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim probing our history of violence and our clashes among immigrant groups.
This spinoff of “Romeo & Juliet” is another example of Shakespeare speaking across the ages.
It’s been everything from a shaky spring high school musical to movies to repeatedly dancing across Broadway stages.
“West Side” is from an age when Broadway was a key element in the American cultural scene, just as TV was rising to bury everything.
Tony (Ricky Needham) is a former leader of the Jets, the local Anglo gang in this Manhattan neighborhood, a gang now run by Riff (Mattthew DiVita).
Maria (Dominique Kempf) is the sister of Bernardo (Alejandro Gabriél Gómez), the boss of the Sharks, the Puerto Rican gang.
The gangs are fighting for turf reasons and because of ethnic hatreds and are ready for a rumble, with the double-meaning “Something’s Coming.”
Bernardo has brought Maria from the Island to marry his buddy Chino (Jordan Rosas) and she really doesn’t want to marry him.
Bernardo is to marry Anita (Blaise Mercedes).
Then, at a beautifully staged high school dance Tony and Maria meet and doom looms.
The creative gang took “R&J” but tinkered with it to meet their needs and the desire to tighten the story.
The great music in the show begins after the dance, with Tony’s “Maria,” as he looks for her and stumbles into the balcony scene of the classic, “Tonight.”.
This is so important to the story that Verona in Italy in which Shakespeare set his story shows tourists the balcony on which Juliet stood.
Maybe it is.
For the limitations of MusicalFare’s space, Maria’s balcony is much smaller and much lower on the stage.
The split between the Latino women shows up with “America,” two views on where to exist, home island or Manhattan.
Tony tries to stop the rumble and when Bernardo kills Riff, Tony kills Bernardo and then goes on the run.
The great romance gets edgy with “Somewhere” and Anita’s “A Boy Like That.”
Ultimately, Chino kills Tony and Maria survives and must live without him.
The gangs unite, driven by love and the body count and carry Tony off, as Maria drags along in the wake of the funeral procession.
The key to some good parts of the production is the decision to partner with Raices Theatre Company, our local Latino company.
That not only provides a major addition to the talent pool, it shows how the local talent pool has widened and created possibilities.
Director Chris Kelly is working with a strong cast, Kempf, Gómez, DiVita and Mercedes.
Needham has a good voice as Tony but his overall performance isn’t great.
The dancing is uneven, although the ensemble is generally very good, with choreography from Nancy Hughes and Bobby Cooke, who has the thankless roles of the pharmacist Doc and Officer Krupke.
MusicalFare has a strong production here with “West Side Story,” but it has some weaknesses in an American classic show, with some of the greatest songs written for the national cultural base from a group of creators just starting their careers (on a high note.).
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