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BWW Review: WEST SIDE STORY is Beautiful, Haunting, and Sadly Still Relevant, at Broadway Rose

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Broadway Rose could perhaps not have picked a more fitting time to bring us Arthur Laurents, Leonard Bernstein, and Stephen Sondheim's WEST SIDE STORY. Right now, our country and several others around the world are in dire need of a reminder that when gangs face off, there is no happy ending. Violence that is rooted in blind hatred and fear has tragic consequences -- for everybody.

WEST SIDE STORY is part of our shared consciousness -- I'd hazard a guess that 90% of Americans know at least one song, even if they don't know it's from the musical. The beautiful and haunting production now playing at Broadway Rose brings to the surface all of the romance the show is known for, as well as the ugliness that happens when we can't see beyond our own prejudices.

I enjoy almost every show I see at Broadway Rose more than the last (which is saying a lot, given that the first musical I saw the company perform was my all-time favorite, THE MUSIC MAN). With this production, I feel like Broadway Rose has stepped their already incredibly high caliber of work up a couple of notches. That has everything to do with the incredible cast, and especially the women.

Let's start with Mia Pinero, who plays Maria. It won't take more than three seconds for you to understand why Tony falls in love with her. And as soon as she starts to sing, you'll be completely done for. She has one of the best voices I've heard on a Portland stage. And that's saying a lot -- we have a lot of great singers. Kayla Dixon as Anita is just as enchanting. This is probably my favorite role in the play, not least because she gets one of the show's best songs.

On the male side, I loved Austin Arizpe, who is powerful, sexy, and intimidating as Bernardo. (Protip: Do not challenge Arizpe and Dixon to a dance contest. You will lose.) Also Garland Lyons, who's just as charming as the hopeful Gladhand as he is terrifying as the xenophobic Lt. Shrank. Andrew Wade as Tony doesn't quite have the alpha male quality we're used to as the founder of the Jets. But he does have an incredible voice.

Favorite scenes: the dance at the gym, "America," and the finale.

All of the action takes place on Robert Andrew Kovach's impressive sets. From the bridal shop to the drugstore to under the highway, the sets are elaborate enough to give you a sense of place, while also leaving the dancers plenty of room to do their thing. Allison Dawe's costumes are also stunning.

WEST SIDE STORY runs at Broadway Rose through July 24. I highly recommend you see it -- go because it's a classic with some of musical theatre's best-loved music, because the cast is incredible, and because the themes provide lessons that are still relevant today. Don't forget the kleenex.

Tickets and info here: http://www.broadwayrose.org/

Photo credit: Liz Wade


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