“West Side Story” rocked Broadway’s world when it made its debut in 1957 and 58 years later, it still has the power to dazzle and move an audience.
That is certainly true at the Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre, where “West Side Story” is running through Sept. 19.
Filled with terrific dancing, energy and plenty of heat, this is a show not to miss.
Director Dean Sobon infuses his fine cast with a sense of drama and a swift pace as the events of two days swirl across the stage.
Choroegrapher Samantha Hewes Cramer uses the groundbreaking choreography of Jerome Robbins and mixes it with her own. It’s a good match.
Great dancing really gives “West Side Story” its fizz and this show has plenty of fizz.
“West Side Story” is, of course, a 1950s retelling of the Romeo and Juliet story, except it’s set in New York City and the fued is between two gangs: The Sharks, newly arrived from Puerto Rico, and the Jets, who resent them for coming.
The neighborhood holds dances, hoping that the two cultures will get along. It never works.
One night, at one of those dances, Tony, former head of the Jets who’s left the gang, and Maria, sister of Bernardo, leader of the Sharks, lock eyes and fall in love across the gymnasium.
That moment will cause great tragedies as the two cultures rip each other apart.
That love at first sight is the part of “West Side Story” that I never believe. How can you look at someone and fall in love so deeply?
But as a friend of mine noted, they are teenagers acting like teenagers.
Nobody looks much like a teenager at the Dutch Apple, but they are young and vibrant and this time, I almost believe Tony and Maria are in love.
That’s thanks to impassioned performances by Carver Duncan as Tony and Alexis Semevolos as Maria.
Duncan needs to be a little tougher. He is so earnest and sweet and his wardrobe is so neat and nerdy, you never once believe he was the leader of a gang.
Semevolos is especially fantastic as the young Maria who knows that Tony is her soul mate. She is the perfect blend of innocence and strength. Her voice is stunning and when she and Duncan sing together, it will make you swoon just a little bit.
In fact, the music here is gorgeous. Musical director JP Meyer and his orchestra, along with a cast of strong singers, make Leonard Bernstein’s music soar.
Chris Kane is smoldering as Bernardo and Zoe Raphael matches his heat as Anita, his girlfriend. These two characters are always the ones who add the sizzle to the show and neither disappoints here.
The rest of the cast is solid. Kirk Lawrence is a heartbroken Doc, Craig Smith is a nasty and bigoted Lt. Schank and Gerard Lanzerotti gives Riff an edge. Will Leonard overacted as Action, who is overwhelmed with anger, but you’ll remember the character.
Jason Long does a good job as Chino, who is in love with Maria and whose anger rises after the rumble the gangs have turns tragic.
The story line of “West Side Story” is a little dated and definitely a show of the 1950s. As tragic as it is, we all sadly know it would have a much more tragic ending today.
If you go:
•“West Side Story”
•Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre, 510 Centerville Road
•Mostly Tuesdays through Saturdays, dinner at 6 p.m. and show at 7:30 p.m. Also, selected matinees and twilights.
•Runs through Sept. 19
•$49-$56 for adults, $23 students, $19 children 3 - 12, show only: $34