West Side Story is a classic piece of theatre, one that many theatre-goers have seen dozens of times. However, DPAC’s production of the play, directed by David Saint, manages to put a fresh spin on this familiar tale. Intricate sets, designed by James Youmans help to bring to life the world of turbulent 1950s New York City, where the streets are prowled by opposing gangs—The Jets and the Sharks. While almost all of the sets are memorable, “the gym,” where the young gang members attend a dance, is one of the best. Complete with colorful streamers and the tacky touch of a basketball goal smack dab in the middle of everything, this believable set comes in early and leaves the viewer hungry for more. There’s also some great frenzied lighting in this scene. The lighting remains excellent throughout, serving to make ill-fated lovebirds Maria (Evy Ortiz) and Tony (Ross Lekites) look positively angelic at times.
That’s not to say that either actor needs any help getting noticed. Both are extremely talented performers who hold their own throughout the show. Ortiz’s Maria is just the perfect balance of naiveté and sauciness, while Lekites is charming and convincing in his role as Tony, a reformed gang member hoping for a change in his life. Both boast incredible vocal talents, seemingly feeling every word they sing. Likewise, Michelle Aravena makes for a feisty Anita, and all of the minor characters are perfectly cast as well.
Musical numbers come to life with ease, not just due to the vocal talent but also to some of the best choreography (Joey McKneely) DPAC’s stage has ever seen. Each musical number is so good, in fact, that it’s almost impossible to pick just one standout. The “I Feel Pretty” number is lots of fun, but the “Somewhere” number is enough to bring the audience to tears. Even without the number, the play’s sad and believably acted ending touches the frostiest of hearts.
Poignant and hard-hitting even today, West Side Story is a great reminder of how far we’ve come and how far we still need to go to eliminate hate and prejudice. This one will only be around through Sunday, June 10, so be sure to get your tickets now.