Review Roundup: Critics Weigh In On Guthrie Theater's Revival Of WEST SIDE STORY

By: Jun. 27, 2018

Review Roundup: Critics Weigh In On Guthrie Theater's Revival Of WEST SIDE STORY

The Guthrie Theater (Joseph Haj, artistic director) proudly announced the cast and creative team for the theater's summer musical, West Side Story. Directed by Haj, this major revival of a timeless classic will play through August 26, 2018, on the Wurtele Thrust Stage. Single tickets for West Side Story start at $15 for preview performances (June 16-21) and are on sale now through the Box Office at 612.377.2224, 877.44.STAGE (toll-free), 612.225.6244 (group sales) and online at

Based on a conception of Jerome Robbins with a book by Arthur Laurents, West Side Story is considered one of the great love stories of all time. Featuring music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, the score is often heralded as one of Broadway's finest and includes beloved American musical theater classics such as "Somewhere," "Maria," "Tonight" and "I Feel Pretty." This year marks the Leonard Bernstein centenary - a worldwide celebration of the 100th birthday of the composer, conductor, educator, musician, humanitarian and titan in the world of classical music. Bernstein's daughter reflected that her father believed if he "just wrote a good enough melody that maybe he could heal the world."

West Side Story has made a palpable impact on the musical theater world for decades. The Tony Award-winning original Broadway production opened in 1957 to great acclaim and ran for more than 700 performances. The subsequent film, released four years later in 1961, won 10 Academy Awards (including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Supporting Actress and Actor), several Golden Globes (including Best Motion Picture - Musical) and a Grammy for Recording of Original Cast from Motion Picture or Television.

This summer, this iconic American musical takes to the Guthrie stage for the first time. Set in 1957, two rival gangs, the Jets and the Sharks, are prowling the streets of Manhattan's West Side. When Tony falls for Maria, the sister of a rival gang member, a rumble is planned. Like Romeo and Juliet, they're caught in an ongoing feud with no escape, even as they pledge their love for each other.

West Side Story tells the tragic tale of lovers Tony, played by Marc Koeck, and Maria, played by Mia Pinero, both making their Guthrie debuts. A native of Fargo, North Dakota, Koeck starred as Tony in the 50th anniversary international company of West Side Story. Other recent credits include South Pacific (Gulf Coast Symphony), The Mystery of Edwin Drood (New London Barn Playhouse) and Camelot (New Repertory Theatre). Pinero has previously starred as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady (PlayMakers Repertory Company) and West Side Story's Maria at Ivoryton Playhouse in Connecticutt. Additional recent credits include In the Heights (Geva Theatre Center) and Three Penny Opera.

Let's see what the critics have to say!

Rohan Preston, Star Tribune: The show has an excellent cast. Koeck plays the conflicted heartthrob Tony with oodles of charisma and heart. His "Maria" sounds alluring and dreamy. And he has great chemistry with Pinero, a Streisand-esque singer and affecting actor. Santiago brings strength and dignity to Bernardo. Ana Isabelle is pitch-perfect as Anita, Bernardo's girlfriend and Maria's confidante, delivering electrifying performances of "America" and "A Boy Like That."

Jay Gabler, City Pages: In a production that elevates story and character over stage spectacle, there is one grand gesture, and it's apparent as soon as you step into the theater. The head and torch of a massive inverted Statue of Liberty extend down from the flyspace, looming over Mark Hartman's orchestra like a missile about to strike. The statue will disappear before long, returning for a devastating conclusion in which Lady Liberty's underlit face evokes America's cruelly broken promises.

Basic Considine, Twin Cities Arts and Leisure: Looks aren't everything, but the cast is individually strong in the vocal department as well. Mia Pinero's performance as Maria has a strong feeling of freshness and vivacity, with a pleasing voice and electric energy. Her counterpart Marc Koeck as Tony is no slouch either in the vocal department, but the pair's voices did not mesh well in duets - the disparate widths and speeds of the vibrato was particularly distracting in "One Hand, One Heart". Fortunately, however, most of the other numbers did not share this compatibility issue. The orchestra sound is full - some issues of too much volume at the reviewed performance were settled a few numbers in.