WEST SIDE STORY
"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
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
REVIEW CONTRIBUTED BY:
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
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
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
Greg Haake's musical direction is admirably precise, and
he makes the large ensemble numbers rousing and moving.
WEST SIDE STORY
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.
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