The original Romeo and Juliet starts with large chunks of verbal exposition. Though much of West Side Story mirrors Shakespeare’s classic love story, it is devoid of the verse describing the fate of the star-crossed Venetian lovers from feuding households, West Side Story opens with a nearly dialogue and lyric-free prologue that relies on the poetry of movement to set the scene, bringing the audience to the heart of the Upper West Side.
This rendition of the classic musical is the touring version of the 2009 Broadway revival directed by the book’s author Arthur Laurents, who set out to revitalize the show for contemporary audiences. One of the changes was to bring in Lin-Manuel Miranda of In the Heights fame to breathe a little more Latin spirit into the Sharks, translating some of the original lyrics and dialogue into Spanish. Much of the Spanish was changed back to English within the Broadway production that closed earlier this year, but more was left in the tour.
Understudy Cary Tedder and Ali Ewoldt, as Tony and Maria, brought the passion needed for their characters and played the heightened reality of the book through.
The ensemble’s energy was dynamic, creating perfect tension between the gangs and camaraderie within them. Features like “America” and “Officer Krupke” highlighted this and brought fun into the musical with a packed spirit and sound.
If anything, individual voices were a little weak, but enunciation and projection is always a problem in the Carr, especially over a well-played orchestra.
The strength of the show was clearly seen in the dancing. Besides the aforementioned prologue, Jerome Robbins’ emblematic choreography was stunning in “Dance at the Gym” and “Somewhere.” The performance was enhanced further by Howell Binkley’s brilliant, stylized lighting design, which sharpened the feud and created a dream world for “Somewhere.”
Morgan Williams ’13 also noted the dancing as her favorite part saying, “It was the most together out of any element in the show. I could see character development and concept through all the movement.”
West Side Story ran last week, Feb. 1-6, at the Carr Performing Arts Centre in Orlando as part of the Broadway Across America series. The next feature is the award-winning hit Wicked, the story of the land of Oz before Dorothy, which will take the stage at the Carr from Feb. 23-Mar. 27. Visit broadwayacrossamerica.com/Orlando for more information.