×

West Side Story

Rarely has an audience leapt to its feet quicker than theatergoers did for the 50th anniversary European tour of "West Side Story."

With:
Tony - David Curry Maria - Davinia Rodriguez Anita - Lana Gordon Riff - Spencer Howard Bernardo - Gabriel Canett Action - John Arthur Greene Chino - Xavier Cano Baby John - Christian Patterson Anybodys - Anna J. Stevens

Rarely has an audience leapt to its feet quicker than theatergoers did for the 50th anniversary European tour of “West Side Story.” Casting this quintessential American tuner, you need a triple-threat troupe who can sing Leonard Bernstein’s often-dissonant score and put across Stephen Sondheim’s acerbic lyrics while convincingly playing 1950s teenagers — not to mention dance like McKechnies and Baryshnikovs. Helmer Joey McKneely lucks out in the last department — the level of dancing is consistently dazzling. And thanks to his painstaking recreation of Jerome Robbins’ original chorography, the show explodes with passion and power.

From the carefree poetry of the opening boys’ ensemble, to the raucous dances at the gym, to the luscious ballet blanc, this production reps the best hoofing — modern, ballet, jazz, or otherwise — to hit dance-starved Vienna in several years.

At 50, “West Side Story” still seems new and dangerous, a fact which likely poisoned its chances at the 1958 Tony Awards (nabbing trophies only for Robbins’ choreography and Oliver Smith’s sets). Filled with the hip lingo of the Beat Generation, Arthur Laurents’ book, however, needs special treatment to keep it from sounding dated, which is one area where this revival sags.

The largely North American cast perhaps should have been given a primer in the punk patois of the long-gone era; their readings of terms like “cool” and “daddy-o” come off stilted. At times, it sounds like Henry Higgins served as dialogue coach.

The words are clearly but blandly enunciated, devoid of New York accents. Even the pan-European cast in Francesca Zambello’s 2003 production at Austria’s Bregenz Festival managed to work “distoibed” into “Gee, Officer Krupke,” here sung with diction that would do the Mormon Tabernacle Choir proud.

The Puerto Ricans switched their accents on and off, and, when their accents were on, the projected German subtitles came in handy.

Since the production will play Austria, France, Switzerland and Germany through the end of February, the accents may reflect McKneely’s conscious decision to make the book and lyrics more accessible to non-native-English-speaking audiences, but the choice costs the presentation some pizzazz.

Gorgeous Davinia Rodriguez, a diminutive Maria, superbly conveys the character’s progression from girl to woman, scaling back her sweet operatic soprano to fit the music. David Curry’s Tony veers in the opposite direction; you almost expect him to launch into “Pagliacci.” But his overall blandness makes him disappear, especially against Spencer Howard’s powerhouse Riff.

Lana Gordon’s pop-style belt is at odds with the other voices, but she makes an appropriately fiery, ultimately gut-wrenching Anita. John Arthur Greene, Christian Patterson, and Anna J. Stevens make large contributions in smaller roles.

Designer Paul Gallis’ sliding maze of fire escapes, accented by sepia-tinted projections of the Upper West Side before ground was broken for Lincoln Center is almost an homage to Smith’s original designs, atmospherically lit by Peter Halbsgut.

While the sets are strictly 1950s, Renate Schmitzer’s flagrantly contemporary, often ugly costumes are the productions’ biggest liability. Schmitzer’s got so many cargo pants and satin baseball jackets going on, it looks like she raided a Gap warehouse. Sporting muscle T’s, the wholesome Jets look like they’re prepping for boys’ night out in Chelsea rather than a rumble under the highway.

But the draw is the magic chemistry of Robbins, Sondheim, and Bernstein, their work looking and sounding as fresh as it did 50 years ago.

West Side Story

Stadthalle, Vienna; 2,036 seats; €87 $126 top

Production: A BB Promotion presentation in cooperation with Sundance Prods., New York, of a musical in two acts with music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by Arthur Laurents. Directed by Joey McKneely. Original choreography, Jerome Robbins; reproduced by McKneely.

Creative: Sets, Paul Gallis; costumes, Renate Schmitzer; lighting, Peter Halbsgut; sound, Rick Clark; production stage manager, Dwan Attwood. Opened, reviewed Oct. 30, 2007. Running time: 2 HOURS, 25 MIN.

Cast: Tony - David Curry Maria - Davinia Rodriguez Anita - Lana Gordon Riff - Spencer Howard Bernardo - Gabriel Canett Action - John Arthur Greene Chino - Xavier Cano Baby John - Christian Patterson Anybodys - Anna J. StevensWith: Jeremy Dumont, Alex Ringler, Jordan Spencer, Victor James Wisehart, Ryan Ghysels, Steve Schepis, Shawn Burgess, Marcus Lovingood, Rashaan James II, Steven Montalvo, Trevor Illingworth, Richard Marshall, Kimberly Wolff, Jessi Trauth, Marina Lazzaretto, Heidi Kershaw, Jacquelyn Scafidi, Kelly Porter, Oneika Philipps, Nicole Chantal de Weever, Sophia Brion-Meisels, Nicole Baker, Lauren Lim Jackson, Herman Petras, Stephen Paul Johnson, Jon Agar, Stuart Dowling.

More Legit

  • Broadway Bounty Hunter review

    Off Broadway Review: 'Broadway Bounty Hunter'

    Anyone wondering what genre-hopping composer-lyricist-book writer Joe Iconis would do as an encore to the Broadway run of Tony-nominated “Be More Chill” need look no further than his immediate past. Written for veteran stage actress Annie Golden and initially produced by Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, Mass. in 2016, “Broadway Bounty Hunter” is both an [...]

  • Because of Winn Dixie review

    Regional Theater Review: 'Because of Winn Dixie,' the Musical

    Watching the musical “Because of Winn Dixie” at Goodspeed Musicals in East Haddam, Conn., it’s hard not to think of another show that premiered in the same regional theater 43 years ago. It, too, featured a scruffy stray dog, a lonely-but-enterprising young girl and a closed-off daddy who finally opens up. But “Winn Dixie,” based [...]

  • MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOWby

    Off Broadway Review: 'Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow'

    There’s something about Anton Chekhov’s whiny sisters that invites comic sendups of “Three Sisters” like the one Halley Feiffer wrote on commission for the Williamstown Theater Festival. Transferred to MCC Theater’s new Off Broadway space and playing in the round in a black box with limited seating capacity, the crafty show feels intimate and familiar. [...]

  • the way she spoke review

    Off Broadway Review: 'The Way She Spoke' With Kate del Castillo

    Since the 1990s, scores of women in Juarez, Mexico have been mutilated, raped, and murdered at such a rate that some have called it an epidemic of femicide—killing women and girls solely because they are women. Isaac Gomez’s play “the way she spoke,” produced Off Broadway by Audible and starring Kate del Castillo, confronts the [...]

  • HBO's 'SUCCESSION

    Brian Cox Playing LBJ in Broadway Run of 'The Great Society'

    Brian Cox will play President Lyndon Johnson in the Broadway run of “The Great Society,” playwright Robert Schenkkan’s follow-up to “All the Way.” The role of Johnson, a crude, but visionary politician who used the office of the presidency to pass landmark civil rights legislation and social programs, was originally played by Bryan Cranston in [...]

  • Paul McCartney Has Penned Score for

    Paul McCartney Has Been Secretly Writing an 'It's a Wonderful Life' Musical

    The pop superstar who once released a movie and album called “Give My Regards to Broad Street” really does have designs on Broadway, after all. It was revealed Wednesday that Paul McCartney has already written a song score for a stage musical adaptation of the 1946 Frank Capra film classic “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The [...]

  • The Night of the Iguana review

    West End Review: 'The Night of the Iguana' With Clive Owen

    If Tennessee Williams is the poet laureate of lost souls, none of his characters as are off-grid as the restless travelers trying to make it through his little-seen 1961 play, “The Night of the Iguana.” Holed up in a remote Mexican homestay, its ragtag itinerants live hand-to-mouth, day by day, as they seek refuge from [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content