All the excitement, heart and of course, tragedy for which West Side Story is known is on full display now on stage at the Actor’s Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre in Coral Gables.
Although billed as “all new,” this splendid production has all of the original elements of the love affair that audiences fell in love with when it opened on Broadway 1957. But even after nearly 60 years, this West Side Story, seems both timeless and fresh.
The show, which transports Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet to a gritty Manhattan, tells the tragic love story between lead characters Maria, portrayed by Sarah Amengual, and Tony (Tim Quartier), whose tender new love cannot survive the prejudice and hatred brewing the Jets and the Sharks, the two gangs vying over a West Side neighborhood.
While the cast all performed their roles well, the standouts include Amengual (Maria). This University of Miami alumnus went on appear to star on Broadway in the role, performed under the guidance of Arthur Laurents, who wrote the show’s famous book. Sweet and beguiling, she could turns steely when called upon to protect her lover.
Stealing the show, much as Chita Rivera did in the original Broadway production, is Isabelle McCalla (Anita), who turns in a fiery performance. Opposite her, Marco Antonio Santiago, who played Bernardo in London, cut a striking figure, lending credence to the Jets’ fears their command of the neighborhood was being supplanted.
Theo Lencicki reprises the role of Riff that he played in West Side Story’s national tour, leading his Jets gang members to egg on the Sharks with finger-snapping precision. And a special shout out to South Florida theater favorite George Schiavone, who brings a time weary sincerity to his role as Doc, the store owner who vainly to stave off the tragedy he knows is coming.
West Side Story is packed with songs that have become American classics, including “Maria,” “I Feel Pretty,” “Something’s Coming,” and “Somewhere (There’s a Place for Us)” unlike today’s crop of Broadway shows that can barely muster a memorable tune. As for the dance numbers, Ron Hutchins admirably builds on Jerome Robbins’ original choreography, which seesaws between feats of athleticism on stage and dreamy ballet.
West Side Story copped the Carbonell Award’s top prize when it was first performed here 20 years ago. Judging fro this production, the company has a chance to pull off this feat again.
West Side Story runs through Feb. 21 at the Actor’s Playhouse.
More info: Actor’s Playhouse