Music Theatre Louisville's recent performances of "West Side Story" were triumphs for all who had a part in it, major or minor. This observer heartily seconds George Hubbard's recent comment in The Courier Journal that it was an almost flawless production.
What remains memorable for this observer was the singular combination of youth and talent among the cast, especially the principals. They had either had graduated or would soon do so. They were: Amanda Smith as Maria; David Fraccaro as Tony; Tzipporah Gerson, Anita; Tony Falcon, Bernardo, and lest we forget, Brandon Tingle as Riff. Each one performed his or her role with confidence and skill; they blended well for much of the success of "West Side Story" will depend on that quality.
Though the performances of Tony and Maria are the key to accessing the quality of any production, there are the indispensable presence of the orchestra, dancers and chorus. If they don't function well, no production can hold its own. In this production, a number of persons deserve A's. Though all of them cannot be identified here, one should cite Director Jim Hesselman and Musical Director Kimcherie Lloyd. She and her eighteen orchestra members were more than up to the many and varied demands of Leonard Bernstein's challenging and creative score.
In similar fashion, it does not take away from Bernstein's singular creativity to emphasize that the very existence, charm and talent for this contemporary classic owes much to the following from the original production: Jerome Robbins for direction and superb choreography, Arthur Laurents for the book and Stephen Sondheim. Apparently, the initial concept or impetus came from Robbins and as one reviewer put it: "Robbins and his superb young dancers carry the plot as much as the spoken words and lyrics do.
And though a tragedy, "West Side Story" has moments of unforgettable beauty, such as when Tony strives to tell us what Maria can mean to him.
What also enhances this production is that it effectively presents a view of real life and the tragedy of wasted, ill-used youth. Though most early critics drew parallels with "Romeo And Juliet" (and there are parallels), West Side Story can and will stand on its own.
"West Side Story" is well worth seeing but it is also well worth reflection.