West Side Story
Book by Arthur Laurents, Music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Rob Fisher conducts, Joshua Bergasse choreographs and stage-directs.
IU Opera Theater
April 9-10 and 16-17, 2010
Call the box office at 812-855-7433 or Ticketmaster, 812-333-9955
Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s West Side Story at the IU Opera Theater is a thoroughly accomplished and engaging production.
Over Time, A Department Flourishes
The cast list betrays a gradual change that’s taken place in the relationship between the School of Music and the Department of Theatre and Drama. Years ago, West Side Story was performed at IU in the old Theater and Drama department theater. Though there were enough actors and dancers for the show, they had to import a School of Music student for the demanding romantic male lead, Tony, who has a challenging singing part. Since then, things have changed radically as the Musical Theater Program has grown. Although this year’s West Side Story still has School of Music Students playing Tony and his Maria, the cast list is simply dominated by students from the Theater Department.
Saturday night’s Tony, John McLaughlin, had a bit of trouble adjusting his classically trained voice for the demands of musical theater in his opening number, but it was not long before he settled in to the part, acting and singing with assurance. Charming Emily Stokes sang well in the part of Tony’s star-crossed love, Maria. Their duets were the musical high points of the evening.
Marc Winski (Riff, the leader of the Jets), and William Angulo (Bernardo, the head of the Sharks) seemed to fit well in their youthful leadership roles. Gina Ricci was a force of nature as Anita, Bernardo’s girl friend. Jake Haynie, as Action, led a neatly staged version of “Gee, Officer Krupke.”
West Side Story offers a curious, teenagers’ world, with only the occasional adult. Harry Watermeier was menacing as the bigoted lieutenant who wishes the Jets would clear out the Sharks. Blake Kendall was chubby and hapless as Officer Krupke. Bill Kloppenburg was sympathetic as “Doc,” the wise village idiot, Jeremy Johnson silly as Glad Hand, the village idiot.
Dancing Through The West Side
Throughout West Side Story the complexity of the movement and dance was key to the show’s success. Stage director and choreographer Joshua Bergasse brings out the eloquence of classic Jerome Robbins dance moves, and adds plenty of others as well. No longer does a dance number at the IU Opera mean a small number of dancers out front while the singers keep it simple in the background.
Behind The Scenes
Set and costumes are by C. David Higgins. The dramatic and active lighting is by Patrick Mero. Rob Fisher is assured and dynamic in his conducting of the orchestra and singers. He at once exploits the extra richness offered by the Chamber Orchestra over a regular Broadway pit ensemble and keeps the necessary rhythmic edge.