`West Side Story' doesn't disappoint

Beloved musical returns to stage in Littleton venue

Posted 9/21/15

From the opening bars to the last song, “West Side Story” keeps an audience totally engaged — even those who probably know the words well enough to sing along. It's such a strong show, and after 10 years it's welcome again on the Town Hall …

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`West Side Story' doesn't disappoint

Beloved musical returns to stage in Littleton venue

Posted

From the opening bars to the last song, “West Side Story” keeps an audience totally engaged — even those who probably know the words well enough to sing along. It's such a strong show, and after 10 years it's welcome again on the Town Hall Arts Center stage in Littleton.

Veteran director Nick Sugar returns to create it again and the choreography is striking throughout.

When one reads a history of how hard it was for the creators of this piece to get it together and then get backing to produce it, it seems especially wonderful. Jerome Robbins, a well-known director and choreographer, initially had the idea for a New York version of the “Romeo and Juliet” story and talked with Arthur Laurents about writing the book. They enlisted Leonard Bernstein to write the music and lastly convinced Stephen Sondheim to write lyrics. The result played more like an opera than a standard musical, and it was a number of years before this illustrious group was able to land a producer. The show opened in 1957 and has been playing somewhere in the world ever since.

Lights go up and Riff (Tim Howard) and the Jets set a path toward trouble from the first bars of the “Jet Song's” tense score. They find Tony ( Jared Ming), who has been one of them, on a ladder painting a sign — and disinclined to rumble with the Sharks, the Latino gang, led by Bernardo (Kent Randell, reprising a role he played 10 years ago at Town Hall).

Tony goes with the gang to the school dance and is immediately attracted to Latino Maria (Carolyn Lohr, whose clear voice blends so nicely with Ming's). Jets are displeased to see them dancing and fights break out.

Dancer Ronnie Gallup dances and sings the Anita role with a rousing rendition of “America.” The Jets, looking for trouble, sing and dance “Cool” and the mood changes with Tony and Maria's lovely duet “One Hand, One Heart” …

Readers know how the story goes and the production is strong enough that one feels like a train has hit by the end. Even when you know what will take place!

We attended on Sunday afternoon and were delighted to see a number of young people there with parents or grandparents. What a perfect introduction to fine theater.

If you go

“West Side Story” plays through Oct. 11 at Town Hall Arts Center, 2450 W. Main St. in downtown Littleton. Performances: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays: 2 p.m. Sundays and Sept. 26; 6:30 p.m.. Sept. 27. Tickets: $23-$42, 303-794-2787, ext. 5; townhallartscenter.org.

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