Entertainment :: Theatre

West Side Story

by Drew Jackson
Thursday Jan 17, 2013
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The cast of ’West Side Story’ at Bass Performance Hall
The cast of ’West Side Story’ at Bass Performance Hall  

They had me at Bass and "West Side Story."

The songs from "West Side Story" aren’t just embedded in the Broadway musical lexicon, but have transcended into American classic standards. They include: "Something’s Coming," "Maria," "America," "One Hand-One Heart," "I Feel Pretty," "Tonight" and "Somewhere."

The opportunity to see these many superb songs sung in context on stage and backed by a full orchestra is just one of many reasons to head to The Bass Hall in Fort Worth to experience this sensational production of "West Side Story."

Based on Shakespeare’s 500+ year-old tragedy about two teenagers from feuding families who fall in love, "West Side Story" was updated to the 1950s in the West Village of Manhattan and features two teenagers of different race, who fall in love despite all obstacles.

Originally premiering on Broadway in 1957, "West Side Story" is the result of a magical collaboration of four of the 20th century’s most legendary Broadway icons: Arthur Laurents (book), Leonard Bernstein (composer), Stephen Sondheim (lyrics) and Jerome Robbins (choreography).

Addison Reid Coe (Tony) and Maryjoanna Grisso (Maria) were obviously cast for their brilliant singing and the meaty role of Anita was well performed by Michelle Alves, dancing and singing with feisty, bold confidence.

This production is based on the 2009 Broadway revival directed then by the 92-year-old original playwright, Arthur Laurents. Laurent’s decision to add Spanish lyrics and dialogue was inspiring, providing additional levels of complexity to the ever-increasing tension that builds throughout the show.

Tony winner Lin-Manuel Miranda ("In The Heights"} assisted Laurents with the Spanish translation and dialogue. The Spanish language additions were initially considered controversial but seem totally natural today. Because the songs, lyrics, and story are so ubiquitous, even an English-language patron has no difficulties in comprehending what is being expressed; indeed, the Spanish language scenes nudge this "West Side Story" to nearly operatic proportions.

The dance numbers are electrifying and include the famous gym scene, the Latin women’s sizzling "America," the idealized dream sequence of "Somewhere" and of course the opening Jets/Sharks prologue where Robbins choreographed signature moves to distinguish the Jets from the Sharks.

Addison Reid Coe (Tony) and Maryjoanna Grisso (Maria) were obviously cast for their brilliant singing and the meaty role of Anita was well performed by Michelle Alves, dancing and singing with feisty, bold confidence.

And as much as the inclusion of Spanish dialogue and lyrics provide "West Side Story" with a hint of freshness and timeliness, the seemingly endless barrage of "Daddy-Os" and "Buddy-Boys" make this otherwise timeless and still relevant story of young lovers overshadowed by their circumstances feel dated.

With its catalog of irresistible songs performed with a brilliant full orchestra and with Jerome Robbins’ explosive, instantly recognizable choreography faithfully reproduced and performed by a triumphant ensemble, this "West Side Story" is a rare opportunity to experience a dazzling piece of art in its full glory and splendor.

"West Side Story" runs through Jan. 20 at The Bass Performance Hall, 4th and Calhoun Streets in Fort Worth. For info or tickets, call 877-212-4280 or visit http://ev12.evenue.net/cgi-bin/ncommerce3/EVExecMacro?linkID=bass&evm=main

Drew Jackson was born in Brooklyn and has been writing ever since he graduated from NYC. He now lives in Dallas happily married to his husband Hugh. Jackson is a familiar fixture on the Dallas Forth Worth theater scene and is currently working on his next play.

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