July 10, 2008

‘West Side Story’ Provides Strong, Uplifting Vocals

By Amanda Deprospero, The Dominion Post, Morgantown, W.Va.

Jul. 10--"WEST SIDE STORY" showtimes are 8 p.m. today and Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday on the Lyell B. Clay Concert Theatre stage at the WVU Creative Arts Center. Info and tickets: 291-4117 or wvpublictheatre.com.

In the midst of the most tragic moment of "West Side Story," the singing in the performance is able to lift the audience back up, promising the start of a new day and, possibly even a fresh start.

"West Side Story" opened Tuesday night on the Lyell B. Clay Concert Theatre stage at the WVU Creative Arts Center.

Tony, played by Nick Dothee, and Maria, played by Julie Hanson, are the star-crossed lovers, caught between a great love and a world that doesn't understand.

Tony is the founder of the Jets, a gang that aims to rule the West Side of New York City.

Although Tony is no longer an active member of the gang, Riff, the Jets leader, pulls him back into the group as they prepare for a challenge with the Sharks, the Puerto Rican gang.

The leader of the Sharks is Bernardo, who also happens to be Maria's brother. "West Side Story" is a more modern take on William Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet."

While Tony and Maria are falling in love, the growing tension between the gangs comes to a tragic climax as Riff is killed by Bernardo during a knife fight.

Avenging Riff's death in a moment of rage, Tony ends up killing Bernardo.

With the leaders of both gangs dead, the remaining members of the Jets and the Sharks become enraged, causing more problems for the young couple.

Dothee's range of singing styles allows him to croon softly at times, and then at other points, take the song up a notch with a powerful voice.

Hanson has an operatic-style voice, and she and Dothee harmonize well together. Their duet in the song "One Hand, One Heart" is one of the most moving scenes in the musical.

In fact, the musical numbers in "West Side Story" are the real stars of the performance, especially "America," when Anita, played by Angelica-Lee Aspiras, and Bernardo, played by Andrew Cao, square off over which is better, America or Puerto Rico.

Another outstanding performance is "A Boy Like That/I Have a Love," where Anita and Maria have an argument after the death of Bernardo.

They duel during the song, each girl singing a different harmony, eventually melding the two and finding a common ground.

Choreography for the show includes a lot of leaps and bounds, which make the musical numbers even more exciting.

Costumes, especially the girl's dresses during the dance scene, are colorful and flowing.

Hanson shines in her final moments on stage as Maria.

She is powerful and moving as a desperate woman, saying "Well, now I can kill, too, because now I have hate."

And, as they musical comes to an end, we are reminded of what happens when hate takes over lives.

It is a somber, but effective, lesson and one that will stick with you long after the curtain closes.


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