by ERIKA SASSEVILLE
Two street gangs, both alike in dignity, in fair Manhattan where we lay our scene.
The Ordway Center for the Performing Arts and Teatro Del Pueblo present West Side Story, April 4-16. The musical, based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, places a new pair of star-crossed lovers in Manhattan’s Upper West Side during the 1950’s. Tony (Tyler Michaels), is a former member of The Jets, a street gang of white teens. While Maria (Evy Ortiz), is the sister of Bernardo (Alexander Gil Cruz), the leader of rival Puerto Rican street gang, The Sharks.
West Side Story opened on Broadway in 1957 featuring music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and book by Arthur Laurents with iconic original concept, direction, and choreography by the great Jerome Robbins.
The Ordway’s production features a stellar ensemble led by Tyler John Logan as Jets leader Riff, and Dean Andre de Luna as Maria’s betrothed, Chino. Desiree Davar stands out as a fabulous dancer and wonderfully sincere and sensual Anita, Maria’s best friend and Bernardo’s girlfriend.
Michaels and Ortiz play the teenage lovers with beautiful innocence and a profound sense of hope for a better life. Meanwhile, the ensemble’s joyous and athletic dance numbers energize every scene with the escalating conflict between the two gangs. Both Michaels and Ortiz have powerful voices which they bring to good use during “Maria,” “I Feel Pretty,” and “Somewhere.” But West Side Story wouldn’t be complete without the ensemble dance numbers, like “America” and “The Rumble,” choreographed by Diane Laurenson.
Sondheim’s songs and Jerome Robbin’s legacy are wonderfully honored in this production. Long time fans and new viewers should thoroughly enjoy this classic show.
West Side Story is directed by Bob Richard, with choreography by Diane Laurenson and musical direction by Raymond Berg. The production’s creative team includes James Youmans (scenic design), Karin Olson (lighting design), Andy Horka (sound design), Mark Koss (costume design), Rick Polenek (props design), Robert A. Dunn (hair and make-up design) and Reid Harmsen (casting). April 4th-16th, 2017 at The Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, 345 Washington Street, St. Paul, Minnesota 55102. Tickets are on sale now at www.ordway.org. Ticket Office: 651-224-4222. Tickets start at $37.