BWW Review: Belmont's WEST SIDE STORY Flies High

BWW Review: Belmont's WEST SIDE STORY Flies High

It's been done, right? Heck, it's 61 years old, and relegated to high schools that are afraid to do newer shows or show Rizzo pregnant in GREASE, right? Right? Whoa there, junior. WEST SIDE STORY is admittedly no spring chicken, but there are reasons a good production still packs a house.

And indeed, the house was packed solid at the Belmont Theatre in York, where director Rene Stsub and company did, as Mickey and Judy said, "put on a show." This writer has argued ceaselessly with other reviewers who complain that WEST SIDE STORY is dated. The mere fact that a show is older doesn't mean it's on its last legs, and Leonard Bernstein's score is still some of the hottest jazz from its period, showcased perfectly by one of the largest orchestras any community theatre in the area has assembled lately. Conducted by Scott Kaliszak, rhe orchestra let a conservatory education in classic American jazz fill the theatre. Dated? Really? This particular show is a jazz composition master class. Choreographer Sarah Flynn aided and abetted this with some excellent gang fight choreography deftly executed by the younger performers playing the Jets and the Sharks.

True, there were moments to pass. The number of cast members on stage gave the sound engineer a few feedback loops when dancers and singers were pressed together too closely. At the gym dance and at the soda fountain, the number of Jets in white shirts and black ties felt a bit too much like an episode of MAD MEN.

But these are relatively minor. The cast proved uniformly delightful, from Hannah Dubois as an angelic-voiced Maria to Belmont veteran Joel Persing as the unloved, perhaps a tad inept, Sergeant Krupke. Sophia Samkowski was a powerhouse Anita, and Robert Hirko gave a solid Tony partnering Dubois on "Tonight." Chico Monroy was also a strong Bernardo, leader of the Sharks. Special kudos, though, to Matthew Ballistreri as Lieutenant Schrank, whose performance showed the nuances of the character, a police officer who may be racist but who is even more disposed to dislkie teens as a whole.

Set design and execution came from directer Staub and from Persing. Staub's usual fine sense of projected backgrounds came into play, while balconies, overpasses, Doc's drug store and the like combined a sensible and necessary minimalism with solid realism.

WEST SIDE STORY is one more illustration of the Belmont's facility with larger musicals. The next big musical will be ANNIE, while upcoming for October and Halloween, sensibly chosen, is Ira Levin's VERONICA'S ROOM, which has been making a comeback of late, While far less familiar to local audiences than WEST SIDE STORY, it's an engagingly suspenseful tale of questionable identities and mysterious motives that more audiences should come to know. For tickets and information, visit

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From This Author Marakay Rogers

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