National Youth Arts - ArtsDig - Resource for youth arts

West Side Story
by Hinkley High School

A staple of the American musical theatre, “West Side Story” (book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein & Stephen Sondheim), is must-see show and an often-staged musical by high schools. The story centers around native-born Polish boy and a Puerto Rican girl newly arrived in America. It is, in fact, a musical adaptation of William Shakespeare's “Romeo & Juliet”. The show was recently staged at Hinkley High School in Aurora, Colorado.

Long-time Hinkley director Annell Weissenbuehler ably handles the large cast. Excellent vocal direction was provided by Marie Heck. The well-done set was courtesy of John Arthur and a team of students. Lights were expertly handled by Brandon Townsend & Jon Olson. The show was choreographed by Terri Sue Dorn, Natalie Dorn and Ken Liest. Stage combat scenes were adeptly designed & choreographed by Charles Burden.

When done well & with respect for the material, “West Side Story” is a difficult show, and this reviewer applauds a high school that tackles it. Ms. Weissenbuehler's team not only tackles it, but scores a winning run. Maria was lovingly acted & sung by Hannah Judson, who did a lovely job with the tough songs as well as becoming a believable character. Tony is played by Ken Meade, who's fine tenor has wonderful coloring & intonation. Emma Goos provided a strong Anita, who plays opposite Josh Hernandez as a solid Bernardo. Skylar Hendrich is an absolute jumping bean as Baby John, who had some nice moments in the show. Benjamin Nicholls as Riff, Eric Tran as Action and Jon Wetzel as Chino round out the cast.

There were two members of the ensemble who were absolute standouts - the striking presence of A.J. Retland as Diesel and the sparkling firecracker Sara Graciano. Both of them seemed to understand what being part of an ensemble means and they were an excellent support to the story and the show.

This cast was at their absolute best when they found the place to live within the characters, especially in the combat scenes and in musical numbers where they could really feel the choreography working with the characters. In particular, “America” and “Officer Krupke” had this quality, but mostly, the intensity was in the fight scenes - there, the audience was taken the farthest into the characters and the story became most believable.

There were occasionally some issues with sound; the school space is quite large & when microphones are used, its because they were necessary. At times, the microphones needed to be louder and there were times when they were not used and should have been. There were a few costume issues as well, but overall, this was a very strong showing that the students in Hinkley's program can be very proud of. Congratulations to the cast and crew on a wonderful run of “West Side Story”!

Performed November 11 – 13, 2010

Tammy Franklin
Reviewer, National Youth Theatre


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