Review: West Side Story (Dancap Productions)

Dancap Productions presents West Side Story in Toronto at the Toronto Centre for the Arts

The musical adaptation of West Side Story  is an old sentimental favourite of mine. Although the script shows its age in its language – “hoodlum” and “play it cool, real cool” – the ill-fated tale of romance and poetic songs strewn throughout are what always made this play incredibly appealing to me.

Dancap’s Broadway Revival of Tony and Maria’s love is slightly different from previous versions in that some of the dialogue and music are in Spanish. This was an excellent tactic in adding dimension and authenticity to the performance. My theatre companion for the night, Wayne, agreed that he liked this different approach, although he also felt it was slightly superficial and that more could have been done to bring West Side Story to a higher level.

I, on the other hand, had high expectations coming into the play because it is a classic. I must say that at some parts of the performance, mainly the first half, I felt slightly detached from the play. I suppose you could say that I wanted more pining between the lovers, but perhaps that is too sentimental on my part. When the last half of the show brings the conflict to a rising boil, however, is when the play really struck a nerve with my emotion.

West Side Story is all about the rashness that comes with youthfulness and passion; this play solidly exemplifies that, particularly in the casting of the roles for Maria and Tony. Evy Ortiz and Ross Lekites seemed quite young. Lekites does not seem to have a demanding presence as some leading men do, but he brings innocence and earnestness to the role of Tony. I find the same qualities in Ortiz as well.

The interpretations of the musical numbers seemed to be approached in a unique manner. I did wish that “Something’s Coming” had more of a foreboding, excited, mixed-up star-crossed quality to it. Instead, the number felt like it was going through its own motions. I was surprised at the amount of chemistry in the song “One Hand, One Heart.” That was a sweet moment of the night.

The rumble was extremely exciting to watch, and the entire cast is quite good at balancing pedestrian movements with dancing feats, in such a way that implies there is the possibility that there are gang members in real life who might happen to have the legs of Baryshnikov. Michelle Aravena, who played Anita, was wonderfully sassy and on point with her character. Ortiz and her fellow castmates in “I Feel Pretty / Me Siento Hermosa” were just hilarious and an absolute delight to watch – all while showcasing their talents in both humour and voice. Ortiz especially lets her singing shine in this number.

Despite not matching my initial expectations of what the production would be like, the play surprised me with its depth – the final ending was intelligent and extremely moving. I very much enjoyed my night watching West Side Story. The inclusion of Spanish is an added bonus. For anyone who loves a good love story, this is the show for you.

Details

– West Side Story plays at the Toronto Centre for the Arts (5040 Yonge St) till June 3, 2012
– The show runs Tuesday – Saturday @ 7:30pm, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday @ 2pm
– Ticket prices range from $51 – $180
– Tickets can be purchased online at www.dancaptickets.com or by calling 416.644.3665 or 1.866.950.7469

Photo credit: From left: Gizel Jimenez, Kathryn Lin Terza, Evy Ortiz and Lori Ann Ferreri. © Carol Rosegg 2011

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