When the first notes of Leonard Bernstein’s music from
West Side Story
rise from the orchestra pit, the excitement and anticipation
starts to run through the theatre, whether you have or have never
West Side Story
‘West Side Story’: A fresh look at a masterpiece
When the first notes of Leonard Bernstein’s music from “West Side Story” rise from the orchestra pit, the excitement and anticipation starts to run through the theatre, whether you have or have never seen “West Side Story”. (Where have you been?) This is a new take on an old story (50 years old), which has enthralled audiences throughout the world on Broadway and in the movies.
The plot is borrowed from Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” and is transported to the gritty west side of New York where gangs prevail (so what’s new?). Here we have the Puerto Rican “Sharks” and the white, lower-class “Jets” vying for turf that neither one of them owns but they feel is theirs. Arthur Laurents originally created the book for “West Side Story” half a century ago and now, at 92, he has revamped this classic to fit the times.
The beautiful Sondheim songs, stunning Bernstein’s music and the edginess are all there, and added is Spanish dialogue that doesn’t seem to enhance the plot line. The old saying, “if it’s not broke don’t fix it” fits the tone here.
Jerome Robbins’ choreography blasts out with Fourth of July effervescence, reinvented by Joey McKneely with dancers that are energetic and well trained, but just miss that edge needed to match the height that this production soared to in the original production. (I know, I was there.)
Ali Ewoldt, as Maria, wraps herself in the role with a glorious voice that even Carol Lawerence did not match. Her high notes are crystal clear and her performance innocent and believable. Kyle Harris’ Tony is sweet and genuine and he delivers the music well.
Director David Saint recreates this musical/drama with precision and sensitivity. Scenic designer James Youmans and lighting designer Howell Binkley subtly steal the show with their sets and lighting.
A little interesting trivia for “West Side Story” fans: The stage version was originally planned as a story about a Catholic boy falling in love with a Jewish girl. The working title was “East Side Story”. After the boom of Puerto Rican immigration to New York in the late ’40s and ’50s, the story was changed to “West Side Story” and opened on Broadway in 1957 for one of the longest running shows in Broadway history.
Be it Puerto Rican, Jewish, white, black or green, Shakespeare and Laurents show how futile misunderstanding, feuds and discrimination can devastatingly change lives forever.
If you have never seen “West Side Story”, do yourself a favor and go enjoy this classic. For aficionados, a night at a performance of “West Side Story” will be fulfilling.
‘West Side Story’
Where: Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market St., San Francisco
Through: Nov. 28
Details: (877) 746-1799 or www.shnsf.com
‘The Flying Karamazov Brothers’: Serendipity unleashed
“The Flying Karamazov Brothers” present an unforgettable, hilarious blend of music, comedy, dance, theatre and juggling. Welcome to the zany world of this goofy troupe where almost anything that goes up and down is thrown into the act of this lunatic group – who, by the way, are not brothers. They took their name from Dostoevsky’s Russian tragedy “The Brothers Karamazov”. Why? Don’t ask. It just goes along with their serendipitous antics.
4play features director Paul Magid, Steven Bent, Andy Sapora and Harry Levine.
“The Flying Karamazov Brothers” were conceived in 1973 at a Renaissance Faire in Santa Cruz and went on to perform in theatres around the world and win awards. They have appeared in television, movies and Broadway.
For off the wall, spectacular entertainment, “The Flying Karamazov Brothers” are it. And, oh yes, you can bring the kids – but hang on to them or they might end up being juggled in the act.
‘The Flying Karamazov Brothers’
Where: San Jose Repertory Theatre, 101 Paseo de San Antonio, San Jose
Through: Nov. 14
Details: (408) 367-7255 or www.sjrep.com