×

West Side Story

A mere four decades ago, "West Side Story" burst onto Broadway, astounded (and sometimes intimidated) its first audiences with its raw, passionate energy, and eventually made its way into masterpiece status. A mere four decades later and after many revivals of varying quality -- highly variable, in this instance -- some of that energy remains, but not all.

With:
Cast: Scott Carollo (Tony), Marcy Harriell (Maria), Natascia A. Diaz (Anita), Jamie Gustis (Riff), Vincent Zamora (Bernardo). With Lee Cherry, Shane Jacobsen, Joshua Bergasse, Robert Wersinger, Joseph H. Moscato, Ben Saypol, Kirstie Tice, Linda Bowen, Kimberely Kimble, Dore Manasevit, Diana Laurenson, Lucio Fernandez, Michael Martino, Jason Dougherty, Bryan Crawford, Byron Easley, Gary D. Ferguson , Natasha Harper, Michelle Dejean, Greta Martin, Eileen Kaden, Christiane Farr, Bernie Passeltiner, Al DeCristo, Brent Sexton, Jonathan Miller.

A mere four decades ago, “West Side Story” burst onto Broadway, astounded (and sometimes intimidated) its first audiences with its raw, passionate energy, and eventually made its way into masterpiece status. A mere four decades later and after many revivals of varying quality — highly variable, in this instance — some of that energy remains, but not all.

It remains, above all, in the motoric frenzy of Jerome Robbins’ original conception, which Alan Johnson has attempted to re-create in this latest touring company (currently at Pasadena for a week after an earlier run in Orange County, several cast changes and a recent San Francisco stint, and heading next for Chicago and then Japan). More than mere choreography (although there is plenty of that), Robbins’ innovation was to devise a manner of movement in which dance, physical battle and ordinary walking and running were all expressed in the same constantly stylized, wonderfully fluid body language.

Johnson’s success is a sometime thing. As in any production worth its grand jetes, the opening sequence — rival gangs circling one another, handing off pantomimes of defiance — is a spellbinding preamble. Sooner than later however, the gears of the machine become apparent, and the piece comes to resemble what it truly is, a copy of a dazzling original, efficient but — like a distressing number of the supposedly teenage cast — rather long in the tooth.

The fact is, “West Side Story” has become a period piece long before its time , a curio to be valued for the plush-lined cleverness of Leonard Bernstein’s songs, the handiness of Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics (hardly a patch on the verbal trickery he would later master) and the resolute old-fashionedness of Arthur Laurents’ “Romeo and Juliet” update. The restored Irene Sharaff costume designs, dating from the days when teenagers of any economic stripe put on neckties to appear in public, does nothing to dispel the faint overlay of dust on the enterprise.

Scott Carollo is a slick, rather bland Tony; his moments of fury are especially hard to believe, and Marcy Harriell’s sweet-voiced stick of a Maria lights no fires. Better than either — the show’s one authentic scene-stealer, in fact — is the Anita of Natascia A. Diaz, daughter of operatic baritone Justino and similarly skillful at creating insidious, larger-than-life characters that hold your attention even when on the sidelines. In an otherwise unexceptionable but lifeless enterprise, she furnishes the spark of life.

Popular on Variety

West Side Story

Pasadena Civic Auditorium; 2,961 seats; $50 top

Production: Barry Brown, Marvin A. Krauss, Irving Siders and the Booking Office, in association with Concert Prods. Intl., Albert Nocciolino, Pace Theatrical Group, Nick Litrenta and TVAsahi Intl. present Leonard Bernstein's two-act musical; book by Arthur Laurents based on Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Director/choreographer, Alan Johnson; music director, Donald Chan.

Creative: Sets, Campbell Baird; costumes, Irene Sharaff; lighting, Natasha Katz. Running time: 2 hours, 35 mins. Opened and reviewed, Jan. 22, 1996; runs through Jan. 28.

Cast: Cast: Scott Carollo (Tony), Marcy Harriell (Maria), Natascia A. Diaz (Anita), Jamie Gustis (Riff), Vincent Zamora (Bernardo). With Lee Cherry, Shane Jacobsen, Joshua Bergasse, Robert Wersinger, Joseph H. Moscato, Ben Saypol, Kirstie Tice, Linda Bowen, Kimberely Kimble, Dore Manasevit, Diana Laurenson, Lucio Fernandez, Michael Martino, Jason Dougherty, Bryan Crawford, Byron Easley, Gary D. Ferguson , Natasha Harper, Michelle Dejean, Greta Martin, Eileen Kaden, Christiane Farr, Bernie Passeltiner, Al DeCristo, Brent Sexton, Jonathan Miller.

More Legit

  • Sam Rockwell and Laurence Fishburne

    Sam Rockwell, Laurence Fishburne Starring in Broadway Revival of 'American Buffalo'

    Laurence Fishburne and Sam Rockwell will star in an upcoming Broadway revival of David Mamet’s “American Buffalo.” The show marks Rockwell’s first appearance on the Great White Way since his 2014 performance in the revival of Sam Shepard’s “Fool for Love.” The five-year absence saw him pick up an Oscar for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, [...]

  • Secret Derren Brown review

    Broadway Review: 'Derren Brown: Secret'

    Audiences love to be fooled, whether it’s with clever plotting with a twist, the arrival of an unexpected character or even a charming flimflam man with a British accent. The latter is Derren Brown, and he’s entertaining audiences for a limited run at the Cort Theatre, where he is playing head-scratching mind games and other [...]

  • Matthew Broderick, Sarah Jessica ParkerNew York

    Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker to Reunite on Broadway for 'Plaza Suite'

    Real-life couple Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker are hitting the Broadway stage again for a reboot of the late Neil Simon’s 1968 play “Plaza Suite.” The staging will mark the Broadway directorial debut of Tony award-winner John Benjamin Hickey. Set in New York City’s Plaza Hotel in Suite 719, “Plaza Suite” is comprised of [...]

  • Derren Brown

    Listen: Derren Brown Spills His Broadway 'Secret'

    Derren Brown has spent a lot of his career performing magic shows on theater stages — but he’ll be the first to tell you that magic usually doesn’t make for great theater. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “If you’re a magician of any sort, you can make stuff happen with a click of your [...]

  • A Very Expensive Poison review

    London Theater Review: 'A Very Expensive Poison'

    Vladimir Putin owes his power to the stage. The president’s closest advisor trained as a theatre director before applying his art to politics, and ran Russia like a staged reality, spinning so many fictions that truth itself began to blur. By scrambling the story and sowing confusion, Putin could exert absolute control. The long-awaited latest [...]

  • Betrayal review Tom Hiddleston

    Broadway Review: 'Betrayal' With Tom Hiddleston

    and Zawe Ashton as a long-married couple and Charlie Cox as the secret lover. Director Jamie Lloyd’s impeccable direction — now on Broadway, after a hot-ticket London run — strips Pinter’s 1978 play to its bare bones: the excruciating examination of the slow death of a marriage.  It’s a daring approach, leaving the characters nowhere [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content