“Tonight, tonight, tonight I saw a play, with girls and boys all over the place. Tonight, tonight, the world is dull and trite, with actors staggering upon the stage. Today, West Side Story was just a musical, a thing one saw in passing, no better than all right. You danced, what for? What was just a musical is now a dreary booooooore. Tonight, good night, I hope that when I dream, I won’t dream of this sad fright.”
Playing at the Hillel Theatre on campus, West Side Story directed by Nicole Wichinsky had good actors, but the dancing was another matter entirely. The opening dance number introducing the Sharks (Puerto Ricans) and the Jets (White boys) was awkward and unsynchronized. When one guy jumped up, others had already landed, while others hadn’t even leaped off the floor. The dancing was pretty disgraceful, and at one point, they reminded me of a certain keg party I attended where most of the male dancing could be equated to drunken staggering. To their credit, the number was rather complicated, but on the other hand, their dearth of skill in that department should have clued Wichinsky off toward toning down a few of those high kicks and pirouettes. The acting of course is always essential, but in a musical such as this, where entertainment depends mostly on the shock value (since the story is naturally rather flat), the dancing is just as vital in keeping the audience awake.
The girls were just as unsynchronized in the more technical numbers, but worse, awkward looks always sprung upon their faces as they strained to no avail leaping up into the air. The main and supporting actors were alright once the dancing was over with. Maria (Rose Sirna), was adorable and starry-eyed most of the time. Her love interest Tony (David Rosa), was rather gallant and romantic throughout. They both had voices, Sirna hitting high notes with apparent ease. The biggest flaw in Sirna’s acting was in the end when she seemed almost absurd when she was trying to project melancholy gravity. She should definitely tone down a bit of the dramatic exaggeration in certain parts (i.e. when she would confront certain characters by pushing and then leaning on them as she would lose her footing and slide down to the floor wailing).
The supporting actors were just as good, if not better. Bernardo, (the leader of the Sharks) and his girlfriend Anita (Michelle Gonzalez) were excellent. Gonzalez practically stole the show; she exuded sex and charm with every look, every stride. The Puerto Rican accents were exaggerated in most of the actors, but the New Yorker accents the Jets possessed were excellent.
Tons of energy dribbled out of the actors, but that didn’t get them through those dance numbers. Again, dancing is an imperative part of West Side Story, and without it, the musical falls short of delivering the audience anything memorable. If you’re jonesin’ for some West Side, my advice is to go and rent the movie. If you decide to go, for ass-sakes, take a cushion, the seats aren’t the best.
West Side Story is being performed at the Hillel Theatre, 1100 Stanford Drive on the UM campus. Tickets for UM students are $10, $15 for non-UM students, and $20 for general public. Shows are April 15-24 at 8 p.m. and April 18 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. There are no shows on Fridays, but shows on Sundays and Mondays are only $8 for UM students. For additional information visit www.gotoquantum.com.
Deborah Acosta can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org