|Brittany Santos and Jesse Michels|
photo courtesy of Arizona Broadway Theatre
Click here for more information on this production that runs through November 15th.
"...Arizona Broadway Theatre is well aware of the show’s principle requirements. With a large ensemble populating its wide stage, consisting of both new and a few familiar faces, this cast can sing and it can really dance, and when backed by music director James May’s full bodied orchestra, the musical sounds as fresh and as alive today as it did in 1957. The show may be fifty-eight years old but quality is timeless, and this ABT presentation is a quality production....Despite its dated fifties setting, there’s a relevancy to West Side Story that keeps the show continually fresh..Our latter day star-crossed lovers are here played by Jesse Michels and Brittany Santos and both posses the kind of voices you want to hear when it comes to Tony and Maria. Michels’ early solos, "Something’s Coming" and "Maria," both capture that powerful, heartfelt spirit required of Tony, particularly with his Maria where Michel’s powerhouse voice echoes around the walls of the theatre...Brittany Santos not only posses the perfect features for Maria, but her trained voice soars...backed by standout musical support from Music Director James May’s musicians. ...There’s still the issue of actors looking considerably older than the characters they’re playing – most of the Jets and Sharks are really teenagers – and most of those hoodlums neither look nor sound particularly tough or threatening, but it’s a poetic license audiences have come to expect and accept....Jim Hunter’s sparse though effective set and lighting design allows Kurtis W. Overby’s challenging choreography the luxury of filling out the stage...Lottie Dixon’s costume design captures not only the look of the period but the cultural differences between the Americans and the PRs...Those already familiar with West Side Story should be happy, but it’s those seeing it for the first time I envy, particularly when it’s as accomplished as it here. Everyone remembers the first time they saw the musical. How nice that some of those memories will now be of a production at Arizona Broadway Theatre in Peoria." -David Appleford, Valley Screen and Stage (click here to read the complete review)
"With the perfect combination of drama, music, and dance, and containing some of the best-known theatre songs, it is easy to see why West Side Story is considered a classic musical and is loved by so many. With a very good cast and fluid direction, Arizona Broadway Theatre is presenting a solid production of this musicalized, updated version of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet....The score contains some of the most well-known musical theatre songs, including the ballad "Something's Coming," the comical numbers "I Feel Pretty" and "America," and the lovely duet "Tonight." There isn't one bad song in the score of this show. Bernstein's exceptional music is complemented by Sondheim's witty lyrics and each musical number adds to the character development and plot. Even the dream ballet of "Somewhere" is perfectly placed at the height of the tension and adds some beauty into the ugliness we've just experienced....While it is a heavy dance show, a few in the cast were a bit sluggish or out of sync in the delivery of a few of the more intricate steps at the opening night performance. Hopefully, this will be corrected with a few more performances under their belts. Jesse Michels and Brittany Santos are exceptional as Tony and Maria. They both exhibit the yearning and desire for something new and different to come into their lives. Their clear voices soar on their solos and come together beautifully on their numerous duets. They create a genuine and realistic couple, full of desire and love.... Melissa Rapelje is a firecracker as the feisty character of Anita, Bernardo's girlfriend. With guts and passion, she is engaging in her portrayal of this role, a part that is almost always a major highlight of any production...Director Kiel Klaphake adds plenty of original touches to this production....From the required raw emotions that bubble up to the many comical moments, Klaphake gets genuine performances from all of his cast as well...Choreographer Kurtis W. Overby has created plenty of original steps and weaves in a few of the famous original Jerome Robbins moves. While some of the new steps aren't quite as good as Robbins' original ones, and the dream ballet of "Somewhere" is a little unfocused, Overby's steps work well to bring the story, and the characters, to life. Creative elements are beautiful, with Jim Hunter's set and lighting designs painting the stage with a multitude of moody colors that help bring the somewhat depressed settings to life...West Side Story is a classic musical with a simple message of acceptance and tolerance at its core that is still relevant today. Arizona Broadway Theatre's production has a talented cast, beautiful creative elements, and clear direction, bringing this poignant story to life in a moving way. -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)
"As many times as I've seen WEST SIDE STORY, so many are the angles from which I've discovered some aspect that I'd not seen or appreciated before.... Arizona Broadway Theatre honors and stays true to the magnum opus in its current well-executed staging of WEST SIDE STORY, directed by Kiel Klaphake. But, this time around, something new and special came to my attention. It is that, while the centerpiece of the drama is the rivalry of the Jets and the Sharks and the ill-fated romance of Maria (Brittany Santos) and Tony (Jesse Michels), another story, Anita's story, looms large, equally compelling and brought to the fore by the electric performance of Melissa Rapelje.
Ms. Rapelje dominates the stage as a complex mix of bravado and vulnerability. As the sweetheart of Maria's brother, Bernardo (Pasqualino Beltempo)....Rapelje's performance on all counts is electrifying and compelling. Beyond the mellifluous voices of Santos and Michels, Sarah Powell's rendition of Somewhere stands out as a singular spellbinding moment of vocal beauty and authenticity....Arizona Broadway Theatre's WEST SIDE STORY is a marvellous tribute to its creators. -Herbert Paine, Broadway World (click here to read the complete review)