West Side Story is a tragic love story based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet with music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and book by Arthur Laurents. Taking place in the Upper West Side neighborhood of New York City in the 1950’s, this musical gives us two street gangs, the Jets and the Sharks, whose rivalry focuses around their ethnic backgrounds. When a young couple falls in love and tries to break down the walls of hatred between the opposing gangs tragedy strikes multiple times. It is then that the fists slowly come down as they realize what they’ve become and what their actions have caused.
Interlakes Theatre proudly brings this classic to the stage under the direction and choreography of Brian Feehan. The large cast showed off their dancing chops during the many dance breaks. The gentlemen appeared to lack confidence in their steps at times especially during the “Prologue” which made for a shaky start to the opening night performance. However, things improved when the ladies kicked the dancing up a notch during “The Dance at the Gym” and “America”.
Nonetheless, this show was carried by its leads Tony (Justin Luciano), Maria (Julia Suriano), Bernardo (Taylor Warren) and Anita (Cassidy Stoner). Luciano’s voice and connection with Suriano were wonderful and the two of them made the audience wish for a happy ending. Warren was dashingly authoritative as Bernardo and the dancing between him and Stoner during “The Dance at the Gym” was fierce (in the best way). Stoner brought strength, sass and of course incredible dancing to her portrayal of Anita.
As with most opening nights, this performance had its share of glitches. The most noticeable issue was the sound, or in some cases, the lack there of: from the mics being turned “on” backstage before the show to mics dying while leads were singing; to the orchestra being louder than the singers even when their mics worked properly. It is my hope that it all gets sorted out and soon, because it was a shame to barely hear half the songs in the show and listening to the audience around me, many felt the same way.
Thankfully, the shining light of this production (who I could always hear) is the incomparable Julia Suriano who, as mentioned earlier, portrays Maria. From the moment she came on stage she was delightful to watch and when she started singing her well trained, Soprano voice was chillingly beautiful. Her performance of “I feel pretty” put a smile on the face of everyone in the audience. The strength and emotion she brought to “A Boy Like That/ I Have a Love” was perfection. And not long after that, we watched with tear filled eyes, her devastating heartbreak in the “Finale” as she reprimanded both gangs for what their hatred had destroyed. Julia Suriano’s portrayal of Maria is not to be missed as she is hands down one of the best vocalists Interlakes Theatre has ever had.
West Side Story plays until July 12th, 2015 at Interlakes Theatre in Meredith, NH. Tickets and additional information can be found at www.interlakestheatre.com
For more of my reviews and theatrical thoughts check out: http://intheatresome1isalwayswatching.blogspot.co