"West Side Story" at the Hudson Backstage Theatre is outrageously better than anyone has a reasonable right to expect, especially given the familiarity of the material and the limited stage resources on hand.

Director Kenneth Gray-Scolari and his committed troupe handily meet both challenges in a precision staging that churns with relevance and urgency while strictly adhering to the period concept of the show's creators.

Musical director Greg Haake's 10-piece live orchestra renders Leonard Bernstein's classic score with rich textures and emotional swells.

The real star here, though, is the reimagined choreography by Arthur L. Ross, whose invention is born of the necessity of squeezing 32 performers onto an impossibly tiny stage. Watching the entire company high-step its way without an inch to spare through the stylized prologue, the community dance at the gym, and the rumble scene makes a sardine can look roomy by comparison.

Without radical revisionism there are no big surprises here, but for "West Side Story" fans and first-timers this one's passion and execution surpass many a better-funded revival in larger venues.

Reviewed by Philip Brandes


The Hudson Backstage Theatre on Theatre Row in Hollywood is currently running West Side Story, the classic Romeo and Juliet tale set in New York City. With a talented cast and a small, sparse stage, the company did an impressive job telling such a large story on such a small scale.

The strength of the show was in the dynamic portrayal of the female characters, especially the two leads of Maria, played by Laura Darrell, and Anita, played by Janet Krupin. Darrell’s cheeriness and believable naïveté were apparent from her first spoken line, and her vocal ability only added to her pleasant portrayal of Maria. Krupin had a sassy fire to her personality that was not only believable but captivating. She embraced every aspect of the spitfire Anita, and absolutely delighted the crowd whenever she was on stage. Combining her comfort in singing, acting, dancing and just having fun, Krupin efficiently stole every scene that she was in.

The male leads made up in effort what they might have lacked in vocal abilities. Clint Carter, who played the lead role of Tony, struggled through many of his high-noted solos. In many cases he was opened-mouthed with no sound coming out, and in other moments his singing sounded strained, these moments left one wondering why the musical director didn’t transpose Carter’s solo songs to play to his vocal strength, which was clearly in his lower register. Jesse Jensen who played Riff, and Benjamin Marquis, who played Bernardo, both gave very convincing performances that were enjoyable to watch. The obvious camaraderie of the Jets men made up for their lack of killer vocal skills.

The cast was fully committed to each and every scene, no matter if they played a supporting or starring role. With such a large cast on such a small stage, Director Kenneth Gray-Scolari and Choreographer Arthur L. Ross should be commended for their marvelous staging. The ability to have all thirty one cast members on stage at the same time without creating a collision of limbs, especially in the numerous dance numbers, was beyond impressive.

One of the shining moments of the show was the solo by Lindsay Day, singing the famous “Somewhere” during the second act dance sequence. Her voice filled the stage with its simple authenticity and beauty. A second was the famous number “America.” Krupin, Tania Possick as Rosalia, and the rest of the Sharks’ girls infused the stage with their talent and comedic abilities.

Reviewed by Neal Weaver

It takes chutzpah to mount a big, legendary show like West Side Story — as well-known for its spectacular choreography by Jerome Robbins as for its score by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim — in a (relatively) small 99-Seat theatre.

The score is, as always, electrifying. Director Ken Gray Scolari and the Musical Theatre of Los Angeles have mounted a respectable if not brilliant production. The huge ensemble of 30 singer-dancer-actors performs with verve and high energy, and the space limitations, though apparent, are not as distracting as they might have been.

Greg Haake's musical direction is admirably precise, and he makes the large ensemble numbers rousing and moving.


MTLA’s production is intimate yet epic (featuring a 32-member cast and 10-piece orchestra on a stage perhaps ¼ the size of most large theaters’) and rates an A+ for ambitiousness and a solid B for execution. MTW’s production’s greatest assets are its talented and (mostly) young triple-threat performers, under the capable direction of Kenneth Gray-Scolari. Anita is brought to blazing life by an absolutely superb Janet Krupin, and Laura Darrell is simply splendid as Maria. Arthur L. Ross does mostly impressive choreography, especially in the gym dances, which pulsate with Latin fever. Gone, however, are the breathtaking signature Robbins leaps of the show’s prologue sequence, and the set is truly bare bones. This West Side Story has youthful energy, passion, and commitment on its side, making the final product well worth a look-see.

Reviewed by Steven Stanley



Director Ken Gray Scolari has done a terrific job putting together an excellent cast to assay this modern version of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet."

West Side Story is a treat to see.

Reviewed by Robert Axelrod

Now playing at the Hudson Back Stage Theatre, in theatre row in Hollywood, is a top of the line, cream of the crop professional musical, called West Side Story. The seating places you up close, and it is very exciting. It is just as hot as the motion picture, if not better. The two leads: Tony, played by Clint Carter and Maria, played by Laura Darrell, have exquisite singing voices, and I truly enjoyed the dancing and singing; especially when Maria, Rosalita, Teresita, and Francisca sing “ I Feel Pretty”, and when the entire company sings and dances “Dance at the Gym”. The costumes are strikingly colorful up close, as if you are in one of the gangs, sitting in your living room.

This theatrical production is as comparable as a Broadway Production. This theatrical release starts a little disconnected, when the members of the Jets come out one at a time, without any cohesiveness, as if they all were initially struck by stage fright. Fortunately, this only lasts for one minute, then the cohesiveness rises, and this musical production thrillingly grabs you. This is one of the most entertaining musicals, I have ever witnessed. From the warm up, the eighteen piece orchestra grabs your interest, and from their, the only change is your interest intensifying. The acting is very believable, everyone is great looking and colorful, with wonderful costumes. I give this show my highest rating and recommendation.

Laurie Senit
KLAS American Radio Network
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