The star of “West Side Story” is and always has been Jerome Robbins’ ground-breaking choreography, which combines modern dance, ballet, street fighting, love, hate, exuberance, and the kind of intensity rarely found in theatrical dance numbers.
Robbins’ vision is being carried out through the capable interpretation of Nick Kepley and Ginger Poole at Mill Mountain Theatre for the next couple of weeks and if you can get a ticket, get your butt in a seat. Fast. This one’s worth the time and effort. (Ticket info at 540-342-5740 or millmountain.org/tickets.)
“WSS” has always been about the dance, but it’s much more than that: a 600-year-old social commentary that (unfortunately) still has legs, a love story worthy of the greatest writer of all time, a comment on irrational hatred and violence, a venue for beautiful music by Stephen Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein (played by a talented 11-piece orchestra, mostly composed of MMT veterans).
The MMT production emphasizes all those characteristics alternately with a cast of 29 (including five locals: Patrick Kennerly, Jeffrey McGullion, Anna Holland, Chloe Cannon and Chris Shepard) that features some notable professional talent, mostly from the Northeast.
The production revolves around the powerful singing and acting of Julia Paladino as Maria, a young woman with a light, but powerful soprano who carries the emotion of the moment–whether newfound love or great loss–in every note. Ms. Paladino has played Maria before on a regional stage and it shows. She is complemented by Kenneth Quinney Francoeur’s Tony, a solid singer whose voice fits with Ms. Paladino’s as a matched set.
The lighting and set are standard MMT professional and though nothing is out of the ordinary here, it probably shouldn’t be. Simple, classic, effective.
This is a big production of an American classic and the boys and girls at Mill Mountain Theatre bring it off as a season-highlight.
(Note: Wear a jacket or sweater. The theater last night was so chilly that it distracted from the play. I asked that the AC be given a break, but didn’t notice any difference.)