One of Broadway's greatest shows, West Side Story, is playing this weekend at the Nampa Civic Center, and the heart-wrenching score by Leonard Bernstein is as stirring and beautiful as when the production opened in New York in 1957. Presented by the Music Theatre of Idaho and directed by Dr. Jean Andrews, the opening night audience was mesmerized by the drama, delighted with the mockery of the comic songs and energized by the Latin rhythms of the exciting dance routines. Andrews has put together a smooth and technically slick show that dramatically captures the passion and spirit of the tragic story.
The most astonishing achievement of this production must be credited to choreographer Annie Kennedy, who has taken about two dozen chorus members with widely differing dancing abilities and experience and welded them into remarkable dance units, using simple but flashy dramatic movements.
The show is based on Shakespeare's tale of Romeo and Juliet and the bitter rivalries between the houses of the Montagues and the Capulets. The 20th century classic moves the action to Manhattan's gang struggle between the American Jets and the Puerto Rican Sharks during the 1950s and '60s, demonstrating the irony of how hatred for those who are "different" remains the same through the ages.
The young lovers, Tony (a Jet) and Maria (the sister of a Shark) are brilliantly played by Josh Cremer and Chelsi Kennedy. Kennedy's sensational voice and a dazzling smile make you laugh with her "I Feel Pretty" and cry with "There's a Place for Us." They create a magical wedding scene with a chilling undertone. The music is so sad it made my teeth ache, perhaps from the effort of trying not to cry and embarrass everyone around me.
Glynis Calhoun gives a remarkable performance as Anita with her athletic dancing and strong singing voice. The dynamic Chris Brand displays his lively comic ability in the song "Gee, Officer Krupke," and Taylor Vickers is appealing as the young girl who desperately wants to be a gang member. The stunning, multi-level set, with its brick walls, ladders, railings and fences helps the talented cast deliver the dramatic impact of the doomed lovers' story.
West Side Story, directed by Dr. Jean Andrews
7:30 p.m. Oct. 21-23 plus 1:30 p.m. matinee on Oct. 23
$13.50 adults; $12 seniors; $10 kids
Nampa Civic Center, 311 3rd St. South
Tickets at 468-2385, MTI ticket office, 2039th Ave. S. or www.mtionline.org