2’s Review: ‘West Side Story’

2’s Review: ‘West Side Story’

FORT MYERS, Fla. – The cast of West Side Story commanded a packed audience to jump to their feet in a thundering standing ovation deserving of a worthy performance in the historic Florida Repertory Theatre.

This production of the 1957 Broadway Musical blows the dust off your typical evergreen run of the modern American Classic.

From the moment the show opens in the backstreets of New York the breathtaking choreography by Curtis Holbrook is nothing less than overwhelming as actors are gleefully leaping across the floor performing acrobats, dance and song throughout giving us a cross between ballet and martial arts for our fight scenes. Holbrook is no stranger to the show as he appeared in the 2009 Broadway revival. The iconic performance is brilliantly directed by Kody C. Jones despite the challenge of having the largest cast in history on the Florida Rep stage using every square inch to turn in an over thrilling performance.

“West Side Story” features lyrics by Stephen Sondheim to help tell this modern-day Romeo and Juliet love story. In this case Tony and Maria are teenagers from the opposite side of the tracks belonging to opposing gangs until they fall in love and face a deep rivalry that threatens to keep them apart.

Actor Zach Schanne delivers a convincing Tony with his rich tenor voice that delivers his big performances like Maria. He blends well with established actress Rebbeklah Vega-Romero as Maria in their stunning balcony scene and throughout. Her beautiful soprano voice is a crowd pleaser and I loved her performance of I Feel Pretty.

Schanne and Vega-Romero aren’t the only New York based professional actors anchoring the show. Also included are Diego Guevara as gang member Bernardo, Michael Marotta as Doc, Maria Cristina Posada Slye who beautifully plays Maria’s confidant Anita.
Florida Rep. Ensemble Members include David Breitbarth as officer Krupke and William McNult as Lt. Schrank.

These cast members along with the talented Acting Intern Company and the Conservatory students were jettisoned together to combine a thrilling performance that hits all the right notes and emotions.

Hats off to Education Director Kody C. Jones for making his professional season debut by directing this masterpiece.

If you’ve seen the classic I urge you to see this edgier and perhaps more raw version rather than the sweet show we’ve become accustomed to.

Overall the production delivers a big message and uses lots of emotion from a more than talented group of artists whose combined efforts brilliantly bring it to life.

“West Side Story” plays in the Historic Arcade Theatre through December 15th.

Tickets are available online or by calling the box office at (239) 332-4488.