West Side Story Returns Review - Romeo and Juliet in The Big Apple

It’s about time! The La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts presents the highly anticipated revival of WEST SIDE STORY, the most acclaimed musical of all time, by Leonard Bernstein (music) and Stephen Sondheim (lyrics) from the book by Arthur Laurents. Under the musical direction of Brent Crayon, the direction of Ovation award-winner Richard Israel, and choreography by John Todd, WEST SIDE STORY again entertains the audience with songs like “Tonight,” “Maria,” and “Somewhere.”

Ashley Marie as Maria and Eddie Egan as Tony - Photo by Jason Niedle

Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” finds new life in the tenements of New York City as Tony (Eddie Egan) and Maria (Ashley Marie) discover love while surrounded by warring street gangs fighting to the death for a tiny piece of their world.  This is a tale of violence, hate, and prejudice and how they can be overcome. But it’s also about the potentially tragic effects of trying. Sexy and cocky Anita (Marline Martinez) returns, along with a cast of dozens of Jets and Sharks. And let’s not forget about Officer Krupke (Erik Gratton), who still elicits fear and chuckles from the gang members.

West Side Story Company - Photo by Jason Niedle

The La Mirada production is a technical triumph with a full orchestra, soaring voices, and complex dance routines featuring a huge cast. Steven Young’s lighting and Thomas G. Marquez’s costumes titillate the eye, while Julie Ferrin’s sounds delight the ear. WEST SIDE STORY is obviously a huge undertaking, and this production team scores high on their rendition of an iconic classic.  Stephen Gifford’s scenic design requires multiple rearrangements of pieces as singers mingle their voices and dancers swirl across the stage – certainly a feat in itself.

Marlene Martinez as Anita with Company - Photo by Jason Niedle

A stand-out in the cast, Ashley Marie’s Maria is a gentle innocent in a sea of evil – and has a lovely, lyrical voice to match. Each of the characters does a bang-up job with song and dance – although, with a cast of this size, it sometimes becomes difficult to differentiate between the actors. Of course, it is also difficult to see WEST SIDE STORY without comparing it to the other productions which came before – many of which had charismatic leads who launched careers from their roles.

Ashley Marie and Company - Photo by Jason Niedle

But no matter how many times WEST SIDE STORY is revived, it will always carry with it the splendid music and brilliant dance of its very first presentation. This is a lively, refreshing, and energetic show which should keep audiences humming after the final curtain.  There will always be room for another revival of this spectacular musical.

Eddie Egan and Ashley Marie - Photo by Jason Niedle

WEST SIDE STORY runs through May 14, 2017, with performances at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays, at 8 p.m. on Fridays, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturdays, and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts is located at 14900 La Mirada Boulevard in La Mirada, California. Tickets range from $20 to $70. For information and reservations, call 562-944-9801 or 714-944-6310 or go online.    

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