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Dazzling WEST SIDE STORY at Broadway by the Bay

WEST SIDE STORY is approaching 60 years and it is still strong as any modern musical.

Broadway by the Bay creative staff has out done themselves celebrating their 50th season with some broadway classics including Les Miz, My Fair Lady and now WEST SIDE STORY. Director Amanda Folena assembled a top notch cast of local talent that brings this difficult to stage classic to Redwood City's Fox stage. The amazing score by Leonard Bernstein, book by Arthur Laurents, original direction and choreography by Jerome Robbins, and lyrics by a young Stephen Sondheim. WEST SIDE STORY scored two Tonys in 1958, the year THE MUSIC MAN took best musical. BBB stages a visually explosive show with dazzling choreography by Nicole Helfer and stunning fight scenes by Josh Marx.

This company brings perfect passion and a new take to this classic Shakespeare tale. Director Amanda Folena says “Every character in West Side Story lives for the moment – they do not regret the past nor do they worry about the future – they fill each second with a fierce energy that only youth can possess. Therefore, the action that takes place never stops. Like a roller coaster that continues to build momentum as it races along each curve and drop, the velocity of this production is an upward spiral. In an effort to change the inevitable, the characters must dance and sing with a passionate ferocity that only love can generate. That’s what Tony and Maria believe and, ultimately, we believe it too.”

Tony and Maria are played by local favorites Nikita Burshteyn and Samantha Cardenas both excellent. Burshteyn's wonderful tenor voice will bring tears to your eyes with “Something’s Coming” and “Maria”. Cardenas is perfect and delightful in “Tonight” and dances elegantly with Nikita in “One Hand One Heart". The story is so familiar to theatre fans, a coming of age tale about young adults in rival street gangs. Romeo and Juliet inspired, the two gangs, the Jets from the streets of the West End, and Sharks from Puerto Rico, try to deal with how they fit into changing times. Set in the late 50’s - the story is easily just as current with youth today. Bernstein and Sondheim music and lyrics are one of the main reasons for the enduring strength with a list of iconic songs including “America”, “The Jet Song” and “I Feel Pretty”.

The huge talented cast of forty plus all have strong vocals their lively performance never stops, they are at hundred percent. The amazing Taylor Jones plays the powerful Anita, she brings extraordinary class to “America” - and the Shark Girls, Katy Tang, Miko Ison, Katie Edralin, Elizabeth Gee, Diana Esquerra, Camille Edralin, and Catrina Manaham are all first rate. Jones' voice is perfect in “A Boy Like That” and costume designer Margaret Toomey dresses on both the Jets and Sharks female company swoon with color and motion. Toomey's costumes are spot on beaming in the Gym scene. Zachary Padlo has the rough charm and edge as Riff who heads the Jets. Alex Rodriguez plays Riff’s opponent, Bernardo, the leader of the Sharks. Rodriguez commands the stage with his cocky spirited body language, during the “Dance at the Gym” and in the “The Rumble” staged by Josh Marx is superb.

Other notable performances include Ray D’Ambrosio in the adult cast as Doc the diner owner. Wes Chick as the bigoted cop Lt. Schrank and Daniel Rubio as the thug but protective Jet Diesel. Rubio also proved that a larger male actor can easily handle the strong dance commitment to WSS. Maria's intended boyfriend is well played by Salim Razawi, also excellent is Jessica Rose Maxey as the tough tomboy Anybodys. Both the Sharks and Jets male cast fly across the Fox stage in some dazzling moves by Danila Burshteyn, Michael Birr, Joshau Siegel, Alex Cortinas, Derrick Contreras, Jesse Cortez, Neal Pascua, Phillip Davis, Vinh Nguyen, RJ San Jose, Jerry Navarro, Connor Smith, Clint Calimlim, Patrick Brewer, and Charlie Fields. I just named a few of the more than forty professionals in this company.

The story still has some intense moments of reality checks, Anita’s close call with the Jets sets off a rape scene that is very dramatic and well staged by Folena. The production team headed Alicia Jeffrey, includes a four story set designed by Kelly James Tighe, chained together with cyclone fences and scaffolding for the company to climb and move through. Lighting is moody and gloomy for many of the darker and sensitive dance numbers and fight scenes designed by Joe D’Emilio. Leonard Bernstein's complex score is one of the most difficult to recreate, and when it is done correct, it will wow you. Music director Sean Kana assembled a first rate pit of musicians that brings this musical to life. You could just enjoy the texture of this musical by the orchestration alone. Kana's work is to be applauded along with his eighteen piece polished orchestra.

The opening weekend sold out crowds were on their feet at shows end. This is a perfect way to end your summer theatre season. WEST SIDE STORY remains an intense classic of Broadways history and still shines in 2015. Broadway By The Bay continues their successful 50th season, KISS ME KATE opens November 6th. WEST SIDE STORY continues through Sunday, August 30 at the Fox theatre venue, then the company moves to the Golden State Theatre in Monterey: Saturday, September 4. Don't miss this musical!

Broadway By the Bay Presents:

West Side Story

Based on a Conception of Jerome Robbins, Music by Leonard Bernstein, Book by Arthur Laurents, Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

Directed by Amanda Folena, Music Director Sean Kana, Choreography Nicole Helfer

Fox Theatre, 2215 Broadway, Redwood City

Tickets: $47-$69; 650-579-5565 or

Clip from show

August 14th through 30th at the historic Fox Theatre in Redwood City

2215 Broadway Street, Redwood City, CA

September 5th through 13th

at the Golden State Theatre in Monterey 417 Alvarado Street, Monterey, CA.

Photo’s by Mark Kitaoka and Tracy Martin

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