Wednesday, September 5, 2018

West Side Story Still Keeping It Cool

West Side Story

Music by Leonard Bernstein
Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by Arthur Laurents; concept by Jerome Robbins


Directed by Erica Wyman


Hillbarn Theatre
1285 E. Hillsdale Blvd., Foster City, CA 94404
1.650.349.6411
boxoffice@hillbarntheatre.org


Until September 16, 2018


Reviewed by Christine Okon

Tucked on a quiet side street in Foster City, CA is a gem of a venue, The Hillbarn Theatre, now celebrating its 78th season with West Side Story, the perennial musical set in 1950s Manhattan and made memorable by the 1961 movie with Natalie Wood.

Directed aptly by Eric Wyman, this production shows that there is nothing like live theater to create a visceral experience made even more intimate by Hillbarn’s close arrangement of stage and seating.

All of the performances are solid, but the special gift is Ana Paula Malagon as Maria, with her beautifully trained operatic voice that fills the entire space with the spirit of the lovable and vulnerable young woman who is ready to open her heart to love. Maria is schooled in the ways of the world by the older Anita (Danielle Philapil) who brings a powerful sensuality that deepens the pulse of what would otherwise be a simple boy-meets-girl tale. The fierce duet of Anita and Maria ignites with the anger of "A Boy Like That," melting into the mutually felt truth of "I Have a Love."

Anita (Danielle Philapil) and Bernardo (Jorge Diaz) at the Big Dance
When Maria meets good guy Tony, sweetly played by Bay Area favorite Jeffrey Brian Adams, we believe in the power and possibilities of love, expressed beautifully in "One Hand, One Heart." Adams is no stranger to the difficult vocal range demanded by songs like "Something’s Coming" and "Maria," and his convincing connection with Maria makes us want to protect the young lovers from the harshness they are bound to encounter.

Maria (Ana Paula Malagon) and Tony (Jeffrey Brian Adams)

Kimberly Horvath’s choreography, in the spirit of Jerome Robbins, is innovative and sparkling: from the way the finger-snapping Jets slink together like a jungle animal on the prowl, to the beautiful pas de deux of dancers Angela Curatto-Pierson and Neil Rushnock as they act out the yearning for universal peace and place of "Somewhere," sung beautifully in a haunting solo by Danielle Chelken as Rosalia.

Ready to Rumble

The ensemble of Jets, Sharks and their women works great together yet manages to reveal distinct personalities that add touches of humor and contrast. Richard Ames plays a very likable, calm Doc, and Josiah Frampton and Jorge Diaz bring strong machismo to Riff and Bernardo, respectively. Detective Schrank (Marty Lee Jones) was sometimes hard to hear, and with the drab grey trench coat did not come across as the tough arm of the law. The live orchestra led by Rick Reynolds carried the score adequately, complete with bongos, although some of the woodwinds strayed a bit.

All in all, this production of West Side Story is “okay by me.”


West Side Story
Hillbarn Theatre
www.hillbarntheatre.org
1285 E. Hillsdale Blvd., Foster City, CA 94404
1.650.349.6411
box office@hillbarntheatre.org

CAST 

Maria - Ana Paula Malagon
Tony - Jeffrey Brian Adams*
Anita - Danielle Philapil
Bernardo - Jorge Diaz
Riff - Josiah Frampton
Doc - Richard Ames

Velma - Rachelle Abbey
Pepe - Armand Akbari
A-Rab - Luke Arnold
Minnie - Christine Baker
Glad Hand - David Blackburn
Officer Krupke - Shawn Bender
Rosalia/Somewhere Solo - Danielle Cheiken
Teresita/Dream Ballet - Angela Curotto-Pierson
Chino - Jose Gallentes
Baby John -Tucker Gold
Diesel - Tyler Harding
Schrank - Marty Lee Jones
Estella - Allie Lev
Anxious - Joseph Macadaeg
Anybodys - Katie Maupin
Luis - Carlos Nunez
Glad Hand - Randy O’Hara (opening weekend only)
Francisca - Fiona O’Neill
Pauline - Catherine Rieflin
Big Deal/Dream Ballet - Neil Rushnock
Action - James Schott
Snowboy - Jack Swartz
Consuelo - Catherine Traceski
Indio - Victor Valasquez
Graziella - Breanna Van Gastel

CREATIVE STAFF
Director - Erica Wyman
Music Director - Rick Reynolds
Choreographer - Kimberly Harvath
Costumes, Hair & MakeUp - Raven Winter
Scenic Design - Ting Wang
Lighting Designer - Pamila Z. Gray
Properties Designer - Phyllis E. Garland
Master Carpenter - Eric Olson
Sound Designer - Grant Huberty







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