Tuesday, December 21, 2010

POPped Review: 'West Side Story' at The Pantages Theatre

In an age of dying regional theatres with substandard orchestras, I cannot even begin to express my excitement and anticipation Sunday evening walking through the rain to the Pantages Theatre. The architecture and the history of that building are both spectacular.

The production that is the regional tour of the Broadway revival of West Side Story is almost as spectacular. As of yesterday, the 2009 Broadway revival production has become the longest running incarnation of the groundbreaking musical. On the New York closing date of January 2, 2011, the revival will have played only 16 more performances than the original 1957 Broadway production.

Granted, I’m pretty hard to impress. Everyone should try to see this version. The dancing is stunning. The original Jerome Robbins choreography has been perfectly recreated, and is danced by top-notch young dancers. Howell Binkley’s lighting design is perfect, and James Youmans’ sparse set is exactly what it should be. Well, except for when it came time to rumble and it looked like a giant UFO was landing onstage. That was a little weird.

My only complaint all night was the lightness in the Jets’ loafers. Not the dancing… the dialogue. Maria’s (Disney's Aladdin Ali Ewoldt, pictured above with Kyle Harris as Tony) speaking voice was unusually low, but her singing voice was divine. Michelle Aravena’s Anita steals the show. Stephen DeRosa’s Glad Hand was especially fresh and enjoyable. Ladies – dehydrate before you get to the theatre. The Pantages bathroom queue is ridiculous.

I think it was very appropriate for this production to be 12% in EspaƱol… it is Los Angeles, after all. There is less Spanish in Act One, while more of the songs in Act Two are about half English, half Spanish. Since the work is so well known, it’s effective and not very distracting.

If you are into the heartbreakingly beautiful Leonard Bernstein score, you absolutely cannot miss this production. You will never be able to hear it played like this live by the top musicians in town. The only touring musicians are conductor John O’Neill (I am a big fan), his associate conductor, a keyboardist, drummer, and trumpeter. The rest of the orchestra is made up of Local 47 kids, and I guarantee you have heard their work on television, film and radio. It’s an absolutely breathtaking musical interpretation of the piece, flawlessly executed – worth the price of admission and then some. Music Supervisor Patrick Vaccariello always exceeds my expectations.

West Side Story closes at the Pantages on January 2, 2011. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster. There are no more Goldstar tickets, but there are $25 student rush tickets.

See it with someone you care about.

POPped in the rear orchestra -
Elsie Laura

Photo/Source: BroadwayWorld.com


  1. I thought the Tony was B-A-D. He really bent some notes, and missed notes, and had a generally weak voice. Maybe he had a cold on our night, I dunno ...

  2. Maybe he had a cold on our night too! His vibrato bothered me at the beginning, but he grew on me toward the middle. I just read the review on BroadwayWorld.com ... they tend to agree with you Anonymous. But he sure was pretty.

  3. Glad to know it wasn't just me and my note-perfect bitchy family who were underwhelmed by Tony ...