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Based on a conception of Jerome Robbins
Book by Arthur Laurents
Music by Leonard Bernstein
Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

Grand Prairie Arts Council

rtistic Director – Eric Criner
Stage Manager – Taylor Hampton
Music/Vocal Director – Patricia Bedford
Choreographer – Laura Rohloff
Scene Director – Dr. Denise Rodrigue
Set Design – Matt Betz
Orchestra Conductor – Benson Lee
Pianist – Sandra Davis
Costume Design – Eric Criner, Costumes by Dusty
Lighting Design – Ty Cunningham
Sound Design – Peyton Roe

Tony – Clayton Sackett
Riff – Grayson Norman
Action – Sean Sicard
Baby John – Alex Bunger
Big Deal – Billy Veer
Diesel – Noah Scibana
Tiger – Zackary Johnson
A-Rab – Aaron Bates
Snowboy – Daniel Aaron Bryant

Graziella – Bethany Doolin
Velma – Priscilla Villarreal
Minnie – Devon Harper
Pauline – Elizabeth Stevens
Anybodys – Sarah Babick
Clarice – Nadine Ocampo
Kaitlyn Jimenez

Bernardo – Francisco Grifaldo
Maria – Lizzy D’Apice
Anita – Bianka Torres
Chino – Danny Vanegas
Indio – Buddy Griffith
Luis – Ricardo Jurado
Pepe/Nibbles – Andres Reyes
Juano – Richie Hidalgo
Anxious – Tomas Moquete

Rosalia – Sharon Prek
Consuelo – Rachel Nabarrete
Francisca – Joy Williams
Estella – Karla Zamora
Margarita – Gloria Adame
Teresita – Stacia Barrett

Doc – Rob Veal
Schrank – Randy Gamez
Krupke – Kelley Garland
Glad Hand – Michael Smith

Reviewed Performance: 6/24/2018

Reviewed by Carol St George, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

“West Side Story” is my all-time favorite musical. Which makes reviewing it a bit treacherous. Songs from this 61-year old show, which rocked the genre when it debuted on Broadway in 1957, have lived in my head for decades. The combination of Leonard Bernstein’s sophisticated music, both jazzy and operatic in complexity, Stephen Sondheim’s razor-sharp lyrics, and Jerome Robbins’ Latin-jazzed choreography moved musical theater to a whole new neighborhood. Specifically, New York City’s Upper West Side.

Before “West Side Story,” musicals were mostly love stories, comedies, or both. This was a retelling of “Romeo and Juliet,” so there would be no happily ever after. It was contemporary, drawn from current headlines just when ethnic gangs were getting a foothold in the city, and it relied not only on words and music to drive the story’s emotional trajectory but also dance, and plenty of it. More than any Broadway show to date.

It takes guts for a regional theater company to stage a drama this intense and this musically challenging. After all, the cast has to be competent at singing, acting, and dancing (no easy casting job even for Broadway). There’s a lot riding on everyone involved. So I was relieved to see that at the June 24 performance at Grand Prairie’s Uptown Theater the cast and crew poured their hearts and souls into this production.

The story follows the doomed romance of Tony and Maria, he from the Jets, a white teenage street gang, and she the sister of Bernardo, leader of the Sharks, a rival Puerto Rican gang. Tensions between the gangs rise to a boil in the summer heat, with Tony and Maria’s forbidden love only fueling the fire. These two innocent lovers want the gangs to make peace, while the gangs only want to settle who’s on top. Tony convinces the leaders to agree to a fair fight (fists only). But at the appointed hour, one insult leads to another, the fight becomes violent, and the Romeo and Juliet tragedy plays out to the bitter end.

Along the way, we the audience ride a wave of music and movement that carries us from one emotional peak to another. Some of musical theater’s most iconic songs are here — “Maria,” “America,” “One Hand, One Heart,” “Tonight,” “I Feel Pretty,” “Somewhere” — songs so timeless they’ve been covered by the full spectrum of recording artists, from symphonies, jazz ensembles, and pop singers to opera legends. The music has earned Grammy Awards for Best Musical Show Album at least three times, as well as a Grammy for Best Jazz Performance. The dance music alone has been recorded by Bernstein as “Symphonic Dances” and played by renowned orchestras worldwide.

The Shakespearean story, ageless themes, and infinitely memorable music have kept this musical relevant and fresh for generations. Now millennials are embracing the show with new vigor and vitality. Uptown Theater’s performance definitely has the energy and fervor to drive home the play’s gut-wrenching message.

Among this mostly very young cast, Lizzy D’Apice has Maria’s sweetness and optimism down, and her lyric soprano shines in every song. Clayton Sackett’s Tony is guileless and hopeful, with a warm tenor well-matched to D’Apice’s vocals. Had his mic been adjusted to a higher volume, the pair’s duets would have been even better. Blanka Torres gives Anita just the right amount of spunk, and her strong voice is confident and clear. Francisco Griffaldo, though still an undergraduate working on his performance degree, is an authentic, highly charged Bernardo, and we feel the fire in his veins. The supporting actors hold their own, too. Sean Sicard is electric as Action, whether acting or dancing. His “Gee, Officer Krupke” is truly inspired. Grayson Norman’s Riff projects a “Cool” exterior that barely conceals his inner hothead. And Bethany Doolin’s sassy Graziella delivers a heartfelt “Somewhere” in Act 2. The adults, especially Rob Veal as Doc and Randy Gamez as Schrank, succeed as mature foils to the impulsive teenagers.

The extensive dance numbers, calling for ballet, jazz, and Latin chops, are for the most part tightly performed, with choreographer Laura Rohloff honoring the genius of Jerome Robbins’ original conception. The actors’ choreographed fight scenes, demanding extra athleticism, are easily delivered by the young cast.

Matt Betz’s set is well designed and executed, using just enough props to suggest each location. Ty Cunningham’s lighting is equally effective at taking us from day to night and from the streets to Maria’s bedroom.

The only letdown in the production is the music balance between instruments and singers. Benson Lee conducted an orchestra of just five musicians, who brilliantly played the score, yet the singers were consistently overpowered. The volume was appropriately lowered in a few intimate pieces, but in the larger numbers the singers often didn’t break through. Substantial soft pedaling on the piano might have solved the issue. The balance was fine when all or most of the cast belted the lyrics.

“West Side Story” is an ambitious undertaking for any theater company. As director Eric Criner mentions in the program, Grand Prairie Arts Council had been asked for years to add it to the theater’s repertoire but waited until the group felt they could “get it right.” To this enthusiastic local audience, the production was worth the wait. Let’s hope more regional companies take up the challenge. It’s hardly a musical one gets tired of.

West Side Story
Uptown Theater, 120 E. Main Street, Grand Prairie, Texas 75050
June 22, 23, 29, 30 – 8:00 pm
June 24, 30 & July 1 – 2:00 pm
For tickets and more information:
Call 972-237-8786 or visit