The bevy of dancers dazzle – shimmy, boogie, leap and slide – beyond expectation and imagination, from balletic jetés to rumble rhumba. Disciplined, talented, energetic, attractive, perfectly matched, the ensemble makes Dallas’ official 2011 State Fair musical, the national touring revival of the Broadway hit West Side Story presented by Dallas Summer Musicals, pure joy to experience. Snap, snap.
Yes, there’s that fabulous love story and musical score, too, with book by Arthur Laurents, lyrics by multiple Tony winner Stephen Sondheim (in his Broadway debut) and music by the incomparable Leonard Bernstein. With the right sort of singers, two generations younger than the original Broadway cast, it’s a win all around. Starring Ross Lekites as Tony, Evy Ortiz as Maria, Michelle Aravena as Anita, Drew Foster as Riff and German Santiago as Bernardo, this touring revival mixes a fine-tuned homage to singing styles of a bygone era with contemporary tempos and interpretation and the expansion of Hispanic elements in song and speech, adding authentic ethnicity. When this revival of the 1957 show opened to critical acclaim in 2009, it broke box office records at the Palace Theatre and recouped its $14 million investment after running only thirty weeks.
Originally conceived of as a modern re-telling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet set in New York’s Lower East Side, West Side Story became a special project for legendary director/choreographer Jerome Robbins. His magnificent production, emphasizing the trials and emotion of underprivileged urban youth, won the Tony for Best Musical in 1957, along with Best Choreography (Robbins) and Scenic Design (Oliver Smith). James Youmans’ scenic design for the current revival maintains nostalgic street feel of 1950’s New York and elements of Smith’s design but adds height and industrial dimension with striking color washes, rolling crane balconies and massive chain link drops. Tony and Maria’s love still plays on an epic scale with the singers’ soaring voices; but their tender love’s future feels doom-shadowed in a repressive cultural landscape framed in cold, hard-edged metal.
Today’s fully engaged energy leaps out from the classical past with Joey McKneely’s world-class choreography in ensemble scenes. McKneely, originally a Robbins dancer, made his Robbins-designated directorial debut at La Scala Opera House with West Side Story. His productions of the show have toured the world’s finest venues; cast members in this State Fair production also danced the show’s recent international tour. You won’t see better musical theatre dancing or choreography, anywhere in the world. With smooth musical direction by John O’Neill.
Presented by Dallas Summer Musicals through Sunday, October 23 at the Music Hall at Fair Park, it’s a snap! Catch this first class revival of one of America’s best-loved musicals. For tickets: call 1-800-982-ARTS, or purchase online at www.ticketmaster.com