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Review

West Side Story
by Valley Youth Theatre

THE SHOW:  

Libretto by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, conception and choreography by Jerome Robbins, based on William Shakespeare's “Romeo and Juliet.” Broadway debut in 1957.  

West Side Story is one of the greatest classics of American musical theatre created by Jerome Robbins, Arthur Laurents, Leonard Bernstein, and a young Stephen Sondheim featuring powerful storytelling and a remarkable score that includes Somewhere, Maria, Tonight, and America. This modern, musical adaptation of Romeo and Juliet takes place on the Upper West Side of Manhattan as rival gangs of Caucasians (The Jets) and Puerto Ricans (The Sharks) battle for turf, while the love between Tony and Maria will either bring the groups together or rip them even further apart.  

THE PRODUCTION:  

Valley Youth Theatre and Director Bobb Cooper’s team staged a huge production of West Side Story at downtown’s Herberger Theater Center, the show featuring a mixture of big, eye-popping visuals musical numbers and moments of poignant intimacy. The visuals include magnificent choreography by Katie Casey and Lucas Coatney, good period hair and costumes by Karol Cooper, and scenery provided by FCLO Music Theatre highlighted by the detailed work on Doc’s store, a chain-link fence that drops down between us and the rumble, and the three-tiered fire escape on either side of the stage for the Romeo and Juliet balcony scene used for Tony and Maria’s Tonight duet, and for the Tonight quintet where each side fills up the fire escapes just before their hatreds clash on the stage in between.  

The performers are led by Mike Sprenger as Tony and Sedona Urias-Ramonett as Maria. Mike’s sterling vocals give a spellbinding ode to Maria, with Sedona joining him in their charming balcony scene with a nicely sung Tonight. Triple-threat Megan Farinella stars as Anita, Maria’s friend and the girlfriend of Maria’s brother Bernardo, shining throughout with natural humor and sass for the comedic scenes including her lead in the big America number, and delivering powerful, riveting moments in her A Boy Like That duet with Maria and when she is attacked in Doc’s store. As Riff, Michael Schulz is at ease as the leader of the Jets who knows when to be a friend and when to be a leader with his gang. Jonathan Ramirez is Bernardo, doing well as the leader of the Sharks whose anger is palpable as he deals with the racism of the Jets and police who have hounded him since his arrival. Riff and Bernardo and their fight choreography deliver a tension-filled rumble under the highway.  

The rest of the large cast is packed with talent that is evident in all the large musical numbers. Sedona Urias-Ramonett is joined by her friends who briefly break the tension with a fun and amusing I Feel Pretty. The Somewhere Ballet is beautifully sung and danced by the cast, with Ally Lansdowne moonlighting from her role as the tomboy Anybodys to provide a lovely Somewhere solo. Connor Baker and the Jets also deliver some welcome humor with their impersonation of Officer Krupke and the adults who pretend they know all there is to know about juvenile delinquency, and all the Jets and Sharks are pretty funny pretending to be chummy with each other at Doc’s when their war council is interrupted by the law. The Jets boys and girls show off their jazzy dance moves in Cool, and the Sharks girls are dynamite in America. While the entire stage is awash with talent and passion when they are all out there together for the dance at the gym, and later for their pre-rumble Tonight Quintet, not yet fully realizing how different the dance at the gym and the dance under the highway will be.

Performed August 8 - 24, 2014

Rob Hopper
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Executive Director
National Youth Arts

~ Cast ~ 

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Officer Krupke: Kevin Ohlfest
Lieutenant Schrank: Peter Hart

~ The Jets ~
Riff: Michael Schulz
Tony: Mike Sprenger
A-rab: Jacob Browning
Action: Connor Baker
Baby John: Brandon Brown
Big Deal: Wil Arends
Diesel: Stephen Glass
Gee-tar: Griffin Siroky
Mouthpiece: Adam Hays
Snowboy: Vincent Pugliese
Anybodys: Ally Lansdowne
Clarice: Jessie Jo Pauley
Graziella: Devaune Bohall
Minnie: Caroline Wells
Nannette: Carly McClain
Pauline: Liz Grannis
Susie: Isabella Conner
Velma: Elyssa Blonder

~ Sharks ~
Bernardo: Jonathan Ramirez
Maria: Sedona Urias-Ramonett
Chino: Noah Guzman
Anxious: Mason Reeves
Indio: Ralphael Brown
Juano: Philip Amerine
Luis: Brian Carmona
Moose: Alberto Flores
Nibbles: Clay Rollon
Pepe: Brandon Reyes
Toro: Alex Partida
Anita: Megan Farinella
Consuela: Zoe Zamora
Estella: Ayanna Conway
Francisca: Payton Bioletto
Margarita: Karlie O'Hearn
Rosalia: Sophia Deyden
Teresita: Mariella De Angelis

Glad Hand: Manny Quijada
Doc: Mitch Etter

Director: Bobb Cooper
Musical Director: Mark Fearey
Choreographers: Katie Casey, Lucas Coatney
Wardrobe Designer: Karol Cooper
Sound Design: Clearwing Productions
Technical Director: Tom Holmberg
Production Stage Manager: Kelsey Hillman
Scenery: FCLO Music Theatre
Lighting Designer: Mike Eddy

   

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