AT 62 YEARS OLD THE MUSICAL 'WEST SIDE STORY' IS MORE RELEVANT THAN EVER
PCRT BRINGS AN EMOTIONAL STARK APPROACH
TO TONY AND MARIA WITH A FULL OF LIFE TERRIFIC
CAST AND PRODUCTION TEAM
The Sharks and Jets are in their classic rumble mode in Pacific Coast Rep’s production of WEST SIDE STORY. PCRT celebrates its 10th Season with this stunning musical now on stage at the Firehouse Arts Center in Pleasanton through February 9th. PCRT now only stages one musical a season Artistic founding director David Judson says this works best for PCRT this season. With the threat of SB5, many community and regional theatres are in threat of closing.
TBA honored actor and Bay Area native, Noel Anthony Escobar, makes his directorial debut with this Tony Award winning show. Escobar has assembled a brilliant cast of 27 actors/dancers and says “After experiencing this show as an actor - I’ve always dreamed of being on the other side to direct such a groundbreaking musical.” Escobar worked along side PCRT co-founder choreographer Joy Sherratt to stage this icon musical and celebrate its 62nd year. Sherratt also honors the conception of Jerome Robbins’ ground-breaking dances that are vibrant on the Firehouse stage. Musical Director Nick Perez conducts a show stopping five member band that truly captures Bernstein’s original complex score.
Bernstein’s and Sondheim's music is still riveting 62 years later. The mash-up of Latino influences and classical Broadway tunes create a stunning score with influential songs like "Tonight," "Maria," and "Something's Coming." They were matched by Jerome Robbins' brilliant original choreography. WEST SIDE STORY scored two Tony's in 1958, the year THE MUSIC MAN took best musical. The opening “Prologue” number takes us deep into the story’s rivalry from the first note.
The charismatic Sam Faustine as Tony has always wanted to play this role and found it a challenge. His gifted tenor voice rings across the Firehouse as he sings the classic solo “Maria”. Faustine can add this to his list of triumphs. He projects youthful naiveté, which at first seems at odds with Tony's gang leader past, but bares his soul when he is love struck, and everything in the world becomes possible for him. His soaring rendition of "Something's Coming" and the duets "Tonight" and "One Hand, One Heart" fill the Pleasanton stage with his bold emotion.
The delightful Alexis Vera plays Maria. She shines with the yearning of a girl longing for true love and meaning, radiant in finding it, and unshakable in her faith. She projects Maria's playful yet innocent nature. Her voice is full and lovely, blending beautifully with Faustines' in their duets including the unforgettable “Tonight”.
The compelling Sofia Costantini is terrific as Anita, the fireball who freely admits to her physical longing for Bernardo, while protecting Maria's virtue. She sings the show stopper "America," and is dazzling. Costantini brings her angry passion as she sings "A Boy Like That," and her dancing is amazing. She is well matched with Brian Conway as Bernardo. His performance captures Bernardo's wounded pride and the need to have a place in his new home lead him to gang life, and his natural leadership is stunning.
The confident energy Costantini and Conway perform in "Dance at the Gym" has stiff competition from the Jets' leader, Riff, played by the accomplished Christian Castillo and the keen Evelyn Rumsby as his girlfriend Velma. Ashley Adams as dancer Jet Graziella is sizzling in the Gym number. Castillo’s portrayal of Riff underscores his cool head and determination to hang on to his hard won street cred. In his encounter with his best friend Tony, he reveals their bond and friendship. Castillo is also a talented dancer in the “Jet Song” and “Cool”.
The large talented cast of 27 all have strong vocals and dance skills. under the dramatic direction of Escobar their lively performance never stops; they are at a hundred percent. Escobar uses the entire theatre to create the space of WEST SIDE STORY. The company using every corner of the Firehouse to enter, run, rumble, and cheer their gangs.
Sherratt and her dance captains Natalie Fong and Danila Burshteyn kept the stage sparse of set pieces so the movement could be at full speed. The Jets fly on stage in the iconic number “Cool” set in the diner, and include the sizzling, Connor Johnson, Mile Vetrovec, Chris Aceves, Tommy Lassiter and Jacob Herrie Naffaa. Action played by the riveting Burshteyn brings the classic number “Gee, Officer Krupke” its high kicking comic drama. Escobar brought the usual humorous number a bit more serious as these teen boys had just witnessed two violent deaths.
The Jet girls are all stellar; Ashley Adams, Evelyn Rumsby, Bethany Mindrum, Kacie Jean Hennessy and Kate Henderson. The Puerto Rican Sharks dressed in their colorful clothes include Justin Sabino, Adam Green, Johann Santos, Melina Diaz, Nicole Hardson-Hurley, Alyssa Villareal and Natalie Fong. Rocky Concepcion is compelling as Chino, Maria's boyfriend who carries a dark edge into the second Act.
The classic ballet scene in the second act is part of the extended version of “I Feel Pretty” featuring Faustine and Vera. Sherratt creates Robbins' original choreography and features the entire company. The dream sequence ballet is well done with the white-uniformed Jets and Sharks shifting to the knife wielding brutality as both Bernardo and Riff meet again in the dream ballet.
Other notable performances include the excellent John Blytt in the adult cast as Doc, the diner owner. The cocky Shaun Leslie Thomas as Officer Krupke and his thug cop pal, Glad Hand, played by Jeff Seaberg. Also excellent is Kate Henderson as the tough, tomboy Anybodys. The impressive Tommy Lassiter as the thug but protective Jet, Diesel. The scene stealer is the confident yet swagger of young Miles Vetrovec as Baby John.
The “gang” still creates some dark moments, Escobars brillant direction of Anita’s rape scene is dramatic and not soft and brings home “metoo” to Arthur Laurents’ book. With the reboot of the film version of WEST SIDE re written by the honored Tony Kushner, and directed by Spielberg will no doubt bring up these current issues.
The company springs on stage and throughout the audience blending into designer Patrick Brandon’s open set that stretches all over the Firehouse theatre. Brandon’s Bridal shop and Doc’s diner are simple and need to move on and off quickly for the company dance numbers. Costume designer Margaret DaSilva’s dresses the female company with color and motion. The male costumes are spot on and beaming in the gym scene. Perfectly fit young men striving to look tough, the young ladies hoping to be desirable between New York cool and Puerto Rican tropical senses of style.
The authentic props designed by Kristie Judson include all the correct items for Maria’s Bridal shop, Doc’s diner and the weapons for the rumble. Especially memorable the mannequins used for the adoring song with the two lovers “One Hand, One Heart”. The Lighting design by Miranda Waldron was dark and moody for many of the sensitive dance numbers, but the background screen projections are dynamic. Stage Manager Anastasia Wirth and her crew Chae Hyden and Kendall Perry kept the large cast on cue and led a busy run getting the Sharks and Jets from one side to the other through hallways and the lobby.
The opening weekend sold out crowds were on their feet at shows end. WEST SIDE STORY remains a powerful work in Broadway’s history and still shines in 2020. The production team created a moving and dramatic take bringing more realism to the stage and the topics of youth violence, guns and gangs and the tragedy it brings.
This production is still a brilliant interpretation of Shakespear’s original love story. 2020 will no doubt be the year of WEST SIDE STORY as the musical comes to the screen for a second time, in the shadows of IN THE HEIGHTS film that will screen this Summer. In the meantime this is a “MUST SEE”. Experience PCRT’s current winning production of this American Theatre classic WEST SIDE STORY. This is a perfect way to begin your 2020 theatre season. Most of the run is sold out but check below for added performances.
Pacific Coast Repertory Theatre 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 NOEL ANTHONY ESCOBAR
Must Close Feb 9th
Added performances Thurs Jan 30 and Feb 6
Firehouse Arts Center
4444 Railroad Ave, Pleasanton, CA 94566.
Pleasanton, CA 94404
Two Hours 30 minutes with a 15 min intermission
Photos by Gino and Mika Lucas
VMEDIA ARTS GO SEE A SHOW - Visits with the cast of WEST SIDE STORY