Wednesday, March 25, 2009

West Side Story

photo: Joan Marcus

You watch the dancing in this revival - skirt hems being lifted, men leaping through the air with one arm up and the other out - and marvel at the brilliance of Jerome Robbins' craft, but you don't feel the tension that the dances used to convey; the choreography of West Side Story has dated in a way that the moves in On The Town have not, perhaps because we've seen so much dance in the intervening years to express urban danger and bravado. Still, aside from hearing the glorious score, the dancing is the best reason to see this mostly unexciting revival in which none in the principal cast - apart from Karen Olivo, very good as Anita - are up to the task. (Josefina Scaglione does well as Maria in the first act - she's remarkably credible at sincerity and innocence - but she lacks the dramatic heft to be effective in the second.) The much-discussed infrequent use of Spanish for select scenes turns out to be nothing more than decorative: sometimes it's contrary to common sense, such as when Anita and Maria don't want the policeman to know what they're planning but speak in English, after having sung all of "A Boy Like That/I Have A Love" in Spanish.

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