BWW Review: WEST SIDE STORY at The Lexington Theatre Company
Since it's debut in 1957, West Side Story has been a phenomenon in popular culture. Using Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet as it's basis, it tells the tale of Tony and Maria's forbidden love set against the backdrop of racial tensions between two rival gangs, the Jets and the Sharks. Tony as a Jet and Maria is the sister to leader if the Sharks. Like it's source material, the story of these star-crossed lovers ends in tragedy. Featuring the music of Leonard Bernstein, lyrics from Stephen Sondheim, and explosive choreography by Jerome Robbins, West Side Story took the world by storm. The show was adapted into a motion picture in 1961, only adding to it's wide spread appeal.
Even now in 2019 the show seems to be as relevant as ever, and is constantly being produced. Just this year I've personally seen two productions, and a Broadway revival is due this fall, with a new film adaptation coming in 2020. With all the West Side Story fever going around, it makes sense that The Lexington Theatre Company would want to put their spin on it. With a cast led by Broadway pros including Kentucky's own Colton Ryan, they wholeheartedly succeed.
Colton Ryan as the love-struck Tony is a marvel. His Tony comes off as understated and reserved at first, but as he meets Maria and fights for her, his layers slowly and beautifully unfold. Ryan has such great stage presence and finds subtle humor within a role that can easily come off as wooden if put in the hands of a lesser performer. He stole my heart, you couldn't help but root for him. Not to mention the wonderful chemistry he had with the lovely Evy Ortiz as Maria. From across the stage you could cut the sexual tension with a knife as they sang to each other in "Tonight". Ortiz is a fine Maria. Her voice soars and her scenes with Tony and Anita are especially strong.
Furthermore, I must mention Michelle Alves as Anita. She completely blew my mind she embodies absolutely everything that Anita should be. Every second she graced the stage, you couldn't help but focus on her, she's magnetic. With feisty flare she performs the complex Jerome Robbins choreography without breaking a sweat. On the flip side her scenes with Maria were sweet and endearing. Rounding out the leads is Sean Ewing as Bernardo. He was fantastic and really accentuated Bernardo's deep brooding anger and angst, while his scenes with Anita were mostly playful and flirty.
The ensemble is all around perfect. They're performing this choreography within an inch of it's life. Every move was crisp, precise, and beautiful. The set was basic but extremely effective. Using old school set pieces and painted backdrops is something I wish we were seeing more of, especially for such timeless classics like this. The direction was great as well, Mark Madama created some stunning stage pictures, and the final 10 minutes are especially heartbreaking, and you can tell it was directed with tenderness and care.
To sum everything up, everyone should absolutely make their way to Lexington for this one! In my 10 years of going to the theatre this is the best West Side Story I've had the pleasure of seeing, and I absolutely don't say that lightly. Colton Ryan is giving one of my favorite performances of the year so far, and I only wish this were running longer so more people can experience the revelation that is his Tony.
WEST SIDE STORY runs Now - July 14, 2019 at The Lexington Opera House
Presented by The Lexington Theatre Company