WEST SIDE STORYMusic by Leonard Bernstein
Book by Arthur Laurents
Lyrics by Steven Sondheim
Based on a conception of Jerome Roberts
Based on Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet
Stolen Shakespeare Guild
Director- Clare Shaffer
Choreographer- Victoria Anne Lee
Music Director/ Costumer- Lauren Morgan
Fight Choreographer- Benjamin Bratcher
Set Designer- Jennifer Stewart and Clare Shaffer
Props / Sound Designer- Jennifer Stewart
Lighting Designer- Julien Makoutz
Dialect Coach- Chris D’Auria
Stage Manager- Allie Skowron
Asst. Stage Manager- Stefanie Glenn
Props Artisan- Jean Jeske
Set Building Crew- D. Aidan Wright, Jason Morgan, Jennifer Stewart, and Bryan Douglas
Paint Design- Gideon Ethridge Christian Vil, Joey Ingram and cast
Set Painting- Gideon Ethridge, Christian VIl, Kirsten Kirk, Victoria Anne Lee, Andy Beckman, Allie Skowron, Joey INgram, Haden Strawn, and Crystal Strawn
Press Photos- Jennifer Stewart
Production Photos- Bart Stewart
Sign Language Interpreters- Erin Mc Alpin and Kaylee Floyd
TONY- Gideon Ethridge
MARIA- Marissa Pyron Rico
RIFF- Joseph Ingram
ANITA- Hannah Martinez
BERNARDO- Coy Rubalcaba
ACTION- Andy Beckman
DIESEL / GLAD HAND- Brendon McMahon
SNOWBOY- William Power
BABY JOHN- Jack Spurgin
ANYBODYS- Kathleen Smith
A-RAB- Haden Strawn
CONSUELA- Emily Bailey
ROSALIA- Sienna Riehle
FRANCISCA- Anica Stoelo
TERESITA- Nelly Jimenez
ESTELLA- Michelle Roberts
SCHRANK- Gary E Payne
DOC / OFFICER KRUPKE- Jonathan Vineyard
VELMA- Jessica Taylor*
GRAZIELLA- Lyndi Wade
CLARICE- Rachel Nieder
PAULINE- Kirsten Kirk
MINNIE- Meredith Salter
PEPE- Charlie Anthony
INDIO- Juan Sanchez
LUIS- Christian Villagomez
TORO- Cesar Mendoza
CHINO- Edward Monreal
Reviewed Performance: 10/13/2019
Reviewed by Connie George, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
When I first arrived at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center, I was a little frazzled. I was 20 minutes early to the venue, but the parking lot was packed as there were 2 events going on that day. After I followed the cars to a parking garage and paid for parking, I began walking toward the theatre and ended up entering the backstage area. I was finally able to ask an actor for directions and realized I was only one door away from the correct entrance. I later learned there was free parking across the street, but a first time visitor had no way of knowing that. The will call workers were very professional, kind, and helped me to find my seat where I was quickly transformed into The West Side Story.
I loved the simplicity of the Black Box Theatre. The walls were littered with Gang Graffiti and down the center of the stage was a chalk outline of what appeared to be train tracks setting up the tension between the two sides before we ever saw the actors. The use of chain link and metal rafters were cleverly used to set territorial boundaries, and made it easy to imagine we were sitting in the middle of New York’s streets. There were several nods to the contents of the show in the graffiti; I think my favorite one would have to be Baby John’s Super Man in the far right corner.
The show opened with the Jets and Sharks squaring off in the street; the choreography, by Victoria Anne Lee, was a pleasure to watch and I enjoyed seeing that the rival gangs even seemed to move differently. The Sharks were more fluid in their movements while the Jets were a bit more abrupt and wild in their dance. At the top of the show we are introduced to Riff, the leader of the Jets (played by the talented Joseph Ingram) and Bernardo, the leader of the Sharks (played by the suave, Coy Rubalcaba). The two leaders do a great job of portraying the intensity of the tension between the two sides. The fight choreography by Benjamin Bratcher was well executed and very believable. The actors did an amazing job of pulling it off in front of such a cozy audience. Riff played a confident leader, wonderful friend, and great greaser. I would love to see Joseph Ingram in other similar roles he was truly incredible.
I was delighted to see the multifaceted Gary E. Payne, as Schrank, the racist detective tasked with the job of keeping the streets clean, and on a personal vendetta to clean the streets specifically of the Puerto Ricans. His dialect and demeanor were perfect for this role and made it easy to love to hate him. I also enjoyed his redeeming qualities at the end of the second act. He and Officer Krupke, played by the gifted Jonathan Vineyard, are introduced at the top of the show when they bust up the fight.
After the fight, we are finally introduced to our lovers: Maria, played by the beautiful and mesmerizing Marissa Pyron Rico, and Tony, played by the infectious Gideon Ethridge. At first I was unsure about Mr Ethridge as Tony, on his own there was nothing that stood out to me. He sang all the right notes, and said all the right lines, you could tell he was a great dancer, but I didn’t experience anything in his first number that was very special. However, the moment he met Maria, all of that changed for me. His facial expressions, his body movements, the way he said the word “MARIA”, it all was absolutely beautiful, and the chemistry the two actors portray is undeniable. They also compliment each other very well with their vocal abilities. Ms Rico has a beautiful angelic voice that goes perfectly with her girlish charm and curious behavior. Her tone and control were mesmerizing and you could understand every word that she sang which is a hard feat when singing such high notes. I was thoroughly impressed with both of their performances and my heart broke for them at the end of this tragic tale.
Other Stand Out Performances…
• The gorgeous and vivacious, Hannah Martinez. She played Anita, girlfriend of Bernardo and best friend to Maria with such zest and passion. A truly talented actress that understood her part and executed it fantastically.
• Jonathan Vineyard as Doc. Jonathan also played Officer Krupke, but shined in his role as Doc. He did a great job connecting with these kids trying to show them a better way, but also letting them be themselves. Special accolades to Vineyard and Gideon in their final scene together.
• Adorable Jack Spurgin as Baby John, who reminds us that these kids are still just kids caught up in a World of hate and fear they don’t belong in. I was especially impressed with his tender moment shared with actor Haden Strawn who played A-Arab.
• Andy Beckman as Action does an amazing job portraying anger at his life’s circumstances.
• Brendon Mc Mahon who stands out with looks alone, with his red hair, tall frame, and defined facial features did a memorable performance as Diesel and Mr Gladhands. It was hard to pretend that we didn’t recognize who he was when he came back as a jet, but he was certainly entertaining.
• Hilarious William Power as Snow boy does a great job with all of the Jets performing “Officer Krupke” that breaks up some of the tension felt after losing their fearless leader.
• Spunky Kathleen Smith as Anybodys just wants to prove she’s one of the guys with great enthusiasm.
• Emily Bailey who played Consuelo is excited for her new life in America, and all the possibilities it has to offer and delivers a soul wrenching rendition of “There’s a Place For Us” in the second act.
• Sienna Riehle, as Rosalia, drew my attention to her several times through her dance and as the Puerto Rican girl who missed home.
• The oh-so-charming Edward Monreal as Chino; I loved this portrayal as Chino. Poor, sweet, loyal Chino who loses the girl and his best friend, and in his desperate emotional state makes a choice that changes things forever.
• Michelle Roberts smiling face stood out to me as Estella.
• And last, but certainly not least, Miss Jessica Taylor who played Riff’s girlfriend, Velma. She didn’t have many lines but her presence and feelings for Riff and towards the Puerto Ricans were made very clear in her body language and facial expressions, making her a more memorable character.
I thoroughly enjoyed this production of West Side Story very much and definitely recommend you make your way out to see it.
The Stolen Shakespeare Guild
Fort Worth Community Arts Center
1300 Gendy St.
Fort Worth, TX 76107
Plays through Oct 27th
Saturdays 2pm and 8pm
Tickets Range from $16-$25
For more information and to purchase tickets visit http://www.stolenshakespeareguild.org or call (817)738-1938.