September 22, 2008

‘West Side Story’ Hits All the Right Notes Besides a Few Technical Glitches, the Musical Keeps Going Strong.


West Side Story is kind of stuck in between. It isn't old enough to be historic, and it's not new enough anymore to be modern. And, yes, the 1950s retelling of Romeo and Juliet on the streets of New York has its dated elements. Street gangs hesitating to go all the way with knives has a bit of quaintness to it.

But it's still one of America's great musicals, and Leonard Bernstein's music holds up just fine, thank you.

The Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra opened its 2008-09 season Friday night with a joint production with the Alhambra Dinner Theatre. The two first worked together last season on The Music Man. While that was enjoyable, this is a major step above in quality and depth.

Unlike The Music Man, this was the full staged production with all of Jerome Robbins' choreography. The orchestra was in the pit at the Moran Theatre and the 50 musicians are more than twice what Broadway musicals usually get.

The cast of 22 was consistently solid. But the two leads, Joshua Bond as Tony and La'Tarsha Long as Maria, stood out, as they should. Long's operatic voice was so strong and clear that she threatened to overshadow everything else on the stage. Unfortunately, her microphone cut out for part of two songs.

There were a few sound inconsistencies. Some exclamations were too loud, some of the vocals not loud enough. Hopefully, they were just opening night glitches.

But the sets are remarkably good. Big two-story pieces that rolled in and out quickly. Chain link fences and brick walls re- created the streets of Hell's Kitchen very well.

I do have to say that the two gangs were awfully clean cut. The Jets have to be one of the least threatening group of street toughs this side of Ponte [email protected], (904) 359- 4296WEST SIDE STORYThe Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra and Alhambra Dinner TheatreToday 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Sunday 2 p.m.Tickets: $31- $59 (904) 354-5547,

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