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Touring production of 'West Side Story' fails to arouse strong emotions

Casting less than ideal in touring production of “West Side Story.”
Oklahoman Modified: April 25, 2013 at 11:55 am •  Published: April 24, 2013

/articleid/3802834/1/pictures/2034989">Photo - Tony (Addison Reid Coe) and Maria (MaryJoanna Grisso) on the balcony scene from "West Side Story"

Photo by Carol Rosegg <strong>Photo by Carol Rosegg</strong>
Tony (Addison Reid Coe) and Maria (MaryJoanna Grisso) on the balcony scene from "West Side Story" Photo by Carol Rosegg Photo by Carol Rosegg

Director David Saint clearly impressed on his cast the need for characterizations filled with youthful ardor and abandon but many cast members took that suggestion too far which resulted in portrayals that bordered on the frenetic.

Michelle Alves' Anita was suitably sultry and seductive but she too wasn't completely solid in regard to pitch. Bernstein's glorious score frequently soars — never more impressively than in the “Tonight” quintet — but to do so, every cast member must be vocally reliable. In this production, those shortcomings left too many of the musical numbers earthbound.

The Jets, Sharks and their respective band of girls generally provided fine support for the principals, most notably, Carolina Sanchez as a feisty and scene-stealing Rosalia. Theo Lencicki (Riff) and Thomas Mothershed (Doc) made fine impressions despite their limited stage time.

Having the character Anybodys sing the second act ballad “Somewhere” was in direct conflict with the script — it's usually sung by an offstage singer, often by the character Consuela. The number failed to achieve its dramatic effect due in large part to Melanie Wildman's unconvincing performance.

This production also made use of a dramatically reduced orchestration — 11 musicians, less than half the specified number. That resulted in a thin sound that only suggested the flavor of Bernstein's rich score instead of fully realizing it.

With its basis in Shakespeare's celebrated tragedy about two mismatched lovers, “West Side Story” must resonate emotionally to be successful, something this cast rarely managed to achieve. Without that gravitas, one was left with a Cliff Notes version of a musical theater classic.

— Rick Rogers


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