Teatro San Diego Stages an Intensely Raw Classic

Ina Lelevier and Mason J. Ballard (Photos courtesy of Sarah Marie Hernandez.).

Ina Lelevier and Mason J. Ballard (Photos courtesy of Sarah Marie Hernandez.).

West Side Story is often presented in an epic style in big venues with large sets and orchestras. Teatro San Diego’s version might be staged at the intimate City Heights Performance Annex to recorded music, but the grand scale of the musical is felt with an expansively diverse cast and beautiful dancing.

Based on William Shakespeare’s tragedy, Romeo and Juliet, the plot involves two New York gangs, the white gang, the Jets, and a Puerto Rican gang, the Sharks. During a dance attended by members of the youths, former Jet member, Tony (Mason J. Ballard), falls in love with Maria (Ina Lelevier), the sister of Sharks’ leader, Bernardo (Enrique Arana). While Tony and Maria become closer, the rivalry between the gangs continue to grow.

The story is a raw and emotional one that directors Michelle Alves and Amanda Rivera Torres honor. Their storytelling is visceral with performers sometimes being placed in between the aisles, to the sides and behind the audience.

Helping the directors bring theatregoers into the world of the plot are Eliza Vedar’s audio which powerfully features Leonard Bernstein’s moving music and Artistic Director, Kevin “Blax” Burroughs’ lighting that perfectly contributes to musical numbers such as “Somewhere” and “Cool.”

Using Jerome Robbins’ choreography, choreography repetiteurs, Executive Director and Founder Julio Catano and Hannah Balagot add tension to the piece with dance moves that alternate between graceful and violent. The entire company expertly handles the intricate movements.

Cast members.

Cast members.

During songs written by composer, Bernstein, and lyricist, Stephen Sondheim and dialogue sequences written by Arthur Laurents, Lelevier and Ballard make a believable pair as the hopeful star-crossed lovers. The stars are sympathetic to watch, especially when Maria and Tony start to get to know each other.

Commanding the stage are Tyler Tafolla as the leader of the Jets and Tony’s best friend, Riff, and Mikaela Rae Macias as Maria’s cynical older sister, Anita (Maya Sofia will be playing the role for the rest of the run). Through their endlessly expressive dancing, singing and acting, they create memorable portrayals of the famous characters.

Alves and Torres do not sugarcoat the dark events from Laurents’ book, and there are still parts of the tale that are shocking to watch even more than 60 years after the 1957 Broadway debut. Because of this, the evening is one that leaves a lingering impact after the curtain call.

With its themes of intolerance and romance, West Side Story continues to be a haunting experience. Teatro San Diego has done justice to the legendary classic.


[box] Show times are Thursday through Sunday at 8:00 p.m. [/box]

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Categories: Dance, Uncategorized
Updated 11 months ago. Return to top.

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