‘There’s a place for us. Somewhere a place for us.’ I hear you Tony and Maria! But is that place Chicago? Broadway in Chicago presents West Side Story. The classic 1957 Tony-Award winning Broadway musical is visiting the Second City. The original stage creation of the dream team, Authur Laurents (book), Leonard Bernstein (music), Stephen Sondheim (lyrics) and Jerome Robbins (direction/choreography), spawned the Academy-Award winning 1961 movie starring Natalie Wood. In this ethnic version of ‘Romeo & Juliet’, the lovers are from different cultures. Maria is a Puerto Rican immigrant aligned to the Spanish-speaking Sharks. Tony is a New Yorker and a member of the Jets. Despite their rival affiliations, they fall hard for each other. It’s discovered love over learned hate. West Side Story is a return to the old neighborhood, where the music is timeless and the production is dated. It’s a familiar romance!
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The best parts of West Side Story are the songs, including; “Tonight,” “America,” “Maria,” “One Hand, One Heart,” “I Feel Pretty,” and my all-time favorite “Somewhere.” The score has to boast the most re-makes by contemporary artists. Sondheim and Bernstein composed a powerful soundtrack. This production produces colorful and lively versions of musical numbers. In particular, the personalities of German Santiago (Bernardo) and Michelle Aravena (Anita) produce vibrant, high-energy fun. The speed bump for me is the duets between Kyle Harris (Tony) and Ali Ewoldt (Maria). They look great together. Regardless of ethnic differences, they are a striking couple. I want them to be together because they are so pretty. They just don’t sound great together. Listening to them, the match doesn’t quite work. Ewoldt sings in a trained operatic style. Harris sings controlled with a limited range. The pair is in conflict.The combo isn’t a lovefest for the ears. The other singing disappointment is the big number “Somewhere.” Ewoldt and Harris are joined by Alexandra Frohlinger to lead the cast in the potential emotional showcase of the show. A rendition of this song usually reduces me to tears. I did get emotional with this “Somewhere” version but it was irritation.
The show is entertaining! The memorable music follows you out onto the street. The huge cast is costumed in vibrant 1950’s American vs Puerto Rican garb. The fighting is perfectly choreographed dancing. Unlike more contemporary musicals like “Billy Elliot,” the dispute never gets real dangerous. The gangs could be right out of the TV show “Glee.” West Side Story is an old Broadway musical. Without dishonoring the creators‘ vision, I think there is a way to gentrify this musical for contemporary times. There is still plenty of gang and ethnic strife. Let’s bring some of that reality to the stage with the original score. ‘Somehow. Someday. Somewhere.’
A diehard Gleek and missing the true grit of gangs fighting, Dick describes it with ‘gays, stop hating!’
Running Time: Two hours and thirty minutes
Book by Authur Laurents
Music by Leonard Bernstein
Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Directed by Davis Saint
Entire original production directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins
At Cadillac Palace, 151 W. Randolph
Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Sundays at 7:30
Fridays, Saturdays at 8pm
Saturdays, Sundays at 2pm
Thru August 14th Buy Tickets