Thursday, April 6, 2017

review - WEST SIDE STORY - Grand Canyon University

the cast of West Side Story
photo courtesy Grand Canyon University
highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)

Click here for more information on this production that runs through April 9th.

"With one of the most moving and significant books and scores in musical theatre history West Side Story has a message that is both timely and timeless. It is a show that is the perfect combination of drama, music and dance created by four masters of the American theatre. ....Grand Canyon University's production wisely uses (Jerome) Robbins' original, iconic choreography and a large cast to expertly display why this show's message remains truthful and especially relevant almost sixty years after it first premiered. Since almost every character in the show is a teenager or young adult, the youthful age of the GCU cast also adds realism and poignancy....Even though not every member has the greatest singing voice, GCU's cast is quite good and the sheer size of the almost 40-member group adds a level of magnitude that you don't get from most productions. Preston MacDonald and Madison Cichon make a cute, realistic couple as Tony and Maria. They both have lovely voices that fit well in their many songs. ...Tarnim Bybee is perfect as Anita, Bernardo's girlfriend. She is feisty and firm, yet also elicits a strong sense of care for Maria and Tony. ...As Riff, the leader of the Jets, Chesney Thompson projects leadership abilities and evokes so much pent up energy and anger that it's easy to see why he and the rest of his gang are always on edge. As Bernardo, Javaughn Iversen has a strong, steady demeanor, which, while still full of fear and pent up energy, creates a nice counterbalance to Thompson. ...Director Claude Pensis does very good work, ensuring that the actors deliver unique portrayals full of both emotion and humor. He adds some nice touches throughout, my favorite being the quick coda at the end, after all of the death and despair has unfolded. He has just the adult characters remain on stage, looking in despair and disbelief and completely guilty, showing them to be partly, if not entirely, to blame for what has happened before. This adds an entirely new and dynamic layer to the story. ...He has stripped the Ethington Theatre space bare to the back walls ...This clean look from William H. Symington projects a feeling of timelessness and, since it isn't specific to New York City, also a sense of Anytown, USA. ...Susannah Keita has restaged Robbins' choreography expertly ...Seeing these well-known moves danced by such a large cast is a joyful experience. Musical director Mark Fearey does very good work...(however) at the performance I attended the microphone levels for the orchestra were off...which made it seems at points like it was a piano only accompaniment. While GCU's production of West Side Story is very good, the bad news is that all performances sold out well in advance of opening night. Fortunately, there is a cancellation line that forms about 30 minutes before show time." -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

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