WEST SIDE STORYBook by Arthur Laurents, Music by Leonard Bernstein
Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Based on a Conception by Jerome Robbins, Based on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet
Artisan Center Theater
Director – Chris Gallego Wong
Assistant Director – Jennifer Gallego
Choreographer – Kianna Dugan
Fight Choreographer – Hayden Casey
Music Director – Thomas Bartke
Stage Manager –Stephen Jakubik
Set Build/Design – Hayden Casey
Lighting Design – Wes Taylor
Costumes – Faith Hilsinger
Props – Faith Cheesman
Dialect Coaches – David Magana, Paloma Magana
Tony: Dominic Norris
Maria: Paloma Magana
Bernardo: Jayson Diaz
Riff/Jet Guy: Hayden Casey
Anita: Lizzy Davis
Chino: Hector Nieves
Pepe/Street Sweeper: Tyler Chamberlain
Indio: Caleb Sonnier
Luis: Kristian Duff
Anxious/Piraguero: Luke Sargent
Juano: Jose Zayas-Quinones
Toro: Daniel Muka
Action: Anthony “Tony” Bartke
A-Rab: Jack Horton
Baby John: Carver Olson
Snowboy: Luca Austin
Big Deal: Mason Snyder
Diesel: Ethan Riggall
Rosalia: Eva Magana
Consuelo/Shark Girl: Bella Lindsey
Teresita: Elizabeth Rodriguez-Potts
Francisca: Rebecca Nason
Estella: Emma Chorn
Margarita: Renea Odour
Anybodys; Marco Gallego
Velma: Jayden Banks
Pauline: Maryn Haley
Graziella: Payton Surles
Jet Girls: Leora Otteson, Avery Rieke
Doc/Glad Hand: Bill Combs
Officer Krupke: Tron Sutton
Lt. Schrank: David Magana
Somewhere Soloist: Natalia Knight
Youth Ensemble: Ava Rosalin, Sophia Gallego, Ruby Magana
Abuelita: Claire Knight
Reviewed Performance: 3/31/2023
Reviewed by Jeri Tellez, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
There were some issues with the music being too loud, covering up the soloists, but that was a minor irritation. While the show did have its technical difficulties (there was also an issue with the projections) it was overall an engaging and thought-provoking presentation.
There was a generous amount of Spanish dialogue and lyrics, which were appropriate and updated the musical. but I wondered if the non-Spanish-speaking audience members would be lost in the translation. My companion thought that the underlying message with its emotion and the actor’s performance would still deliver the dialogue so no one was lost.
The scenic design for West Side Story is of New York City in the 1950s, West Side Story is a retelling of the classic story of Romeo and Juliet. Designer Hayden Casey’s set was nicely done and skillfully brought the audience into the proper location.
Paloma Magana as Maria and Dominic Norris as Tony were a sublime couple who truly personified young love burdened by cultural differences and loyalties. Their singing was beautiful, and their on-stage interactions were complete with chemistry that was evident and played well into the storyline.
Riff, portrayed by Hayden Casey (pulling double duty!), was a charismatic leader who had little trouble getting the jets to follow him. His singing and dancing were well done.
As Action, Tony Bartke was perfectly out of control and unable to resist his anger without help. The rest of the Jets were a joy to watch.
Bernardo (Jayson Diaz) was a wonderful example of an immigrant gang leader trying to overcome the inherent injustice in his situation. He was both angry and caring, watching out for his “familia Tiburon". Chino (Hector Nieves) was appropriately quiet and shy but became bold with anger when the situation called for it.
Lizzy Davis is extraordinary in her portrayal of Anita, the big sister figure to Maria and the girlfriend of Bernardo. Her acting craft was admirable, and her voice was sublime.
Thomas Bartke did an excellent job with the music direction. Overall, the singing was beautiful and blended well. The soloists were clear with their diction, and, except for the aforementioned sound issues, were delightful to hear. Kianna Dugan’s choreography was engaging, and the cast executed it well. I especially enjoyed America and Gee, Officer Krupke.
Faith Hilsinger’s costumes were gorgeous. From the Shark girls’ flouncy dresses to the Sharks’ skinny ties, they fit the time perfectly. Casey’s fight choreography was believable and realistic. Props, designed by Faith Cheesman, were pure perfection.
The ensemble was up to the task, showing a suitable amount of rival gang hate but celebrating their heritage. The dialogue was clear and crisp, they maneuvered well in the confines of the room and did a good job of playing to all sides in the round. The singing and dancing were divine, and the unspoken interactions were appropriate and believable.
I highly recommend this freshly updated version of West Side Story that Artisan Center Theater has created. Do NOT miss this musical!
Artisan Center Theater
Runs thru May 6
For more info or to purchase tickets, go to https://www.artisanct.com/