BYU decided to pull out an old favorite when it was learned the theater department would not be able to stage a fairly new musical this year. Judging by the audience's reaction opening night, "West Side Story" was a sound second choice.
As for me, this production has as much appeal as did the movie when I first saw it more than 25 years ago. (I was just a kid.) Directed by Charles W. Whitman, BYU's "West Side Story" has several things going for it, not the least of which is some terrific choreography and a cast who can perform it.Mic Thompson's dances are energetic and powerful and a delight to watch. Happily, this musical is filled with music and dancing - none of it bad, and some of it wonderful.
Ron Paul is excellent as Bernardo, leader of the Puerto Rican's gang. Emily Pearson also shines as Anita, his fiery, fiesty girl. Both Pearson and Julia Gunner, whose innocent manner makes a credible Maria, maintain authentic-sounding Spanish accents in speech and song.
Blond David Barrus as Tony has no problem with even the highest notes.
Darin Vercillo also sings very well, but is just too nice in his role as Riff, leader of the white Jets.
The cast of 45 works well together, not only in singing and dancing, but in helping move the folding sets between scenes. Seven Nielson's scenic design is a real asset to this production, and the way it is changed seems a type of choreography itself.
The 21/2-hour show keeps moving, too, thanks to a combination of artistic direction, assistance with scene changes, and the live orchestra, conducted by Clyn Barrus.
Some theatergoers pooh-pooh such tried-and-true shows as "West Side Story." But when you can do an old favorite and make it look this good, why not?