April 22, 2014
By Joseph Pratt
Like the classic Broadway favorite states, “When you’re a Jet, you’re a Jet all the way. From your first cigarette to your last dyin’ day,” the show stays true to itself 57 years after it opened on Broadway and various revivals and tours later.
In a recent preview I wrote for “West Side Story,” I mentioned how this particular production was made slightly darker, to make it more realistically about gang violence. Another notable feature in the show was the use of more Spanish, which really helps separate the two rival gangs in a more visual way. While the alterations to the show have been made, it is still the classic pirouette and sucker punching classic show that calls gang fights rumbles.
Since I am a theatre junkie who loves dance and most importantly Stephen Sondheim, above all other Broadway names, “West side Story” should be a favorite of mine. However, it is actually one of the shows I hate most.
Sort of how I like the catchy and fun music from “Fiddler on the Roof,” but deplore its boring staging, the opposite goes for “West Side Story.” While I hate the music from this show, the dance and staging go a long way in captivating. There were times, however, I wished I had an adderall to keep my attention on what was going on when it was constantly jumping from Spanish to English and long dance breaks.
The lighting in this show was probably the most notable feature outside of the wonderful dancing. The lighting went a long way to make up for the minimal use of set pieces, due to the open space needed for dance numbers. Beams of light shot through fog in dance scenes and was used in special effects throughout the entire show in a very smart way.
My dislike of the show isn’t to say it was bad. On the contrary, I appreciate the art that goes into the show and found that the touring revival was much more entertaining than the original staging. I am also always glad to see the Southern Ohio Performing Arts Association (SOPAA) bring in classic musical productions, especially a cornerstone of musical theatre such as “West Side Story.”
“West Side Story” was a great way for SOPAA to end their season and I look forward to their next season, especially “Peter and the Starcatcher.”
Joseph Pratt can be reached at the Portsmouth Daily Times 740-353-3101, EXT 287, or by Twitter @JosephPratt03.