There are some musicals that when you hear their name, the images and the impressions that come to mind are so classic, that it’s hard to imagine tackling. WEST SIDE STORY is one of those musicals. A beloved musical in theatre and in cinema, it is indelibly printed in the minds of theatre goers and sometimes that is a daunting task to undertake when bringing it back to the stage. San Diego Musical Theatre takes on the challenge as it presents the show through March 1st at their new home, the Spreckles Theatre downtown.
This 1950’s version of ROMEO AND JULIET, pits the Jets versus the Sharks fighting for territory in New York as two young lovers try to navigate the drama and the turmoil their respective communities cause.
SDMT has a huge and talented cast to fill their new stage, which is good because this show does shine when they are in their cast numbers. The “Dance at the Gym” is where you see not only the size and scope of the cast, but their dancing and the simmering tensions between the Jets and the Sharks are palpable. The staging is clever and the ebb and flow of the cast during this number feels natural and never pulls focus from what’s happening at the center of the stage.
The dancing is always key in this show, and this show does not disappoint thanks to choreographer Randy Slovacek. Taking a cue from the original production, this dancing is lovely but with some edge. After all, you don’t see gangs dancing through the streets much, but this choreography strikes the right balance between being beautiful and having a hint of menace to it. One particular dancing stand out is Jeffrey Scott Parsons, last seen in WHITE CHRISTMAS as a tap dancing, clean cut, ladies’ man, now bringing life to Riff as the hot tempered but loyal leader of the Jets.
As Tony and Maria, the star crossed lovers, Jacob Caltrider and Jessica Soza are sweet, and naive as the pair who believe their newfound love can make all wrongs right. Jacob’s “Something’s Coming” strikes the right tone as it is both part dream, part wish, and part pushing forward that drives this character. Soza, as Maria ha a powerful soprano, and while it may at time have overpowered some of her costars, it adds plenty of beautiful drama.
As always I seem to always note in my reviews, Music Director Don LeMaster and his ensemble where one of the highlights of the show. This iconic music may be classic, but it’s not easy, and the music that accompanies this show is beautiful and lush.
The staging by Sean Fanning is industrial, functional, and creative as it allows the cast many levels and entranced and exits to utilize. It also is beautifully lit by Amanda Zieves, whose bold colors, help create stunning wonderfully graphic outlines of the sets.
Take a cue from the songs in the show and go see it “Tonight, Tonight” if you can. WEST SIDE STORY is playing through March 1st at the Spreckels Theatre. For show times and ticket information go to www.SDMT.org