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BWW Reviews: WEST SIDE STORY Heats Up Durham

June 7
9:32 PM 2012

BWW-Reviews-WEST-SIDE-STORY-Heats-Up-Durham-20010101

Everybody knows West Side Story. Even if you have never seen the show before, even if you haven't seen the movie, you know West Side Story. The iconic show is so enmeshed in American culture that it is inescapable. For good reason, I might add. West Side Story is landmark theater, marking the genesis of the modern musical. And it's at the Durham Performing Arts Center now.

West Side Story is a modern-day Romeo and Juliet as Tony and Maria, from rival Manhattan gangs, fall in love. Despite the fact that my cynical nature causes me to question any declarations of love occurring mere hours after meeting, West Side Story is powerful stuff. The music moves you, singing about all-consuming, love, rage, and fear. This particular production provides an added layer of complexity and authenticity in the incorporation of Spanish.  Portions of the book and lyrics for the Sharks have been translated into Spanish, providing authenticity to the production without making it so those of us who took German in high school won't be able to follow. Other choices in the show have been made to expose the grit and violent realities of gang life in New York City, so it only makes sense that the creative team sought to use language to contribute to the realism.

In true West Side Story fashion, the most noteworthy part of this production was the choreography and the dancing. Joey McKneely largely re-creatEd Jerome Robbins Tony winning choreography from the original 1957 production, and it is stunning. The dream ballet sticks out as a moment of pure choreographic marvel - don't dare look away for a second of it. The dancers, male and female, Shark and Jet, were top-notch and spot-on. This is the kind of choreography you won't want to miss.  It might not come around again for another 50 years.

West Side Story runs through June 10.  For tickets and more information, visit www.dpacnc.com.

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