reviewed by Paula Citron
West Side Story
Conceived by Jerome Robbins
Composed by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by Arthur Laurents
Directed by Gary Griffin
Starring Paul Nolan, Chilina Kennedy, Jennifer Rias, Brandon Espinoza, Andrew Cao and Julius Sermonia
At the Festival Theatre until Oct. 31
Director Gary Griffin’s Stratford production of West Side Story is simply marvellous. He has concentrated on the drama of the musical. It’s not that the action stops when people begin to sing and dance. Rather, the musical part of West Side Story is whole cloth with the words. As a result, this production is an emotional whirlwind that literally brings tears to the eyes.
Griffin is helped enormously by the cast. The standout for me is Paul Nolan’s Tony who interprets his character perfectly, finding that fine line of growing up and growing away. Chilina Kennedy’s Maria is a wonderful study of feisty and innocent. Jennifer Rias has the most showy part in Anita and she is perfection. Also strong are Andrew Cao’s Bernardo, Brandon Espinoza’s Riff, and Julius Sermonia’s Chino who all bring depth to their roles.
The thrust stage is a perfect setting for this truly Shakespearean tragedy.
West Side Story continues at the Stratford Festival Theatre until Oct. 31.