By Edna Snidebottom
West Side Story, inspired by William Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet is the latest offering at Media Theatre. This musical with book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim is set in the Upper West Side neighborhood in New York City in the mid-1950s, an ethnic, blue-collar neighborhood. The set designed by Kyle Brylczyk works well for conveying the different locations needed and in keeping the action flowing. A slide projection center stage is used to good advantage. This musical explores the rivalry between the Jets and the Sharks, two teenage street gangs of different ethnic backgrounds. The young protagonist, Tony, a former member of the Jets and best friend of the gang leader, Riff, falls in love with Maria, the sister of Bernardo, the leader of the Sharks. And of course, mayhem ensues.
The show’s opening seemed too long perhaps because the choreography lacked the menacing bravado of teenaged gang members.
That being said, Dann Dunn assisted by Jennie Eisenhower directs another winning musical. He has assembled an excellent cast to bring the story to life. Leading the talented supporting cast are Victoria Guiteras Mayo who excels as Anita and Avery Sobczak as Bernardo (great job!). The Jets included Zachary Chiero, Dallas Padoven, Neal Buckley, Niklaus Miller, Ryan Lauer, Ronni Keller, Stephen Fala and Emily Kaye Lynn. The Sharks: Dante Bratelli, Aaron Bell, Brandon Alberto, JD Triolo and Samuel Damare. Their women included Rachel Beiswenger, Marissa Wolner, Erika Wasko, Cara Treacy, Mary Guarnieri, Kendyll Young, Brittany Monachino, Marissa Barnarhan and Veronica Garrubbo. Roger Ricker is a scene stealer as Glad Hand. P. Brendan Mulvey, Henry O’Neill and Tim Woodward round out the supporting cast.
Of course, you must have very talented actors in the roles of the star-crossed lovers and Media Theatre certainly delivers.
Patti-Lee Meringo plays the naïve Maria with such lovely sweetness and her voice is like an angel.
Grant Struble is outstanding as Tony. His rendition of “Maria” sounds so fresh you’ll forget you’ve heard the song many times before. His voice range easily slides from powerful to tender and when he sings ‘Maria, sing it soft and it’s almost like praying’ it is indeed a prayer.
The great chemistry between Meringo and Struble and their commitment to their characters is fabulous.
Jennifer Povish does a terrific job costuming this cast of thirty. The musicians under the direction of Christopher Ertelt were flawless. Congratulations to all involved in this solid production.
‘West Side Story’ continues through June 11. Media Theatre is at 104 E State St, Media. For more information, call 610-891-0100 or visit mediatheatre.org.