Roberta on the Arts
"West Side Story" Returns to Broadway, at the Palace Theatre
Contact Roberta
Jazz and Cabaret Corner
On Location with Roberta
In the Galleries: Artists and Photographers
Backstage with the Playwrights and Filmmakers
Classical and Cultural Connections
New CDs
Arts and Education
Upcoming Events
Special Events
Memorable Misadventures
Our Sponsors

"West Side Story" Returns to Broadway, at the Palace Theatre

- Backstage with the Playwrights

Salon Ziba

200 West 57th Street
New York, NY
Open seven days a week
Ask for Alonso

Kevin McCollum, James L. Nederlander,
Jeffrey Seller, Terry Allen Kramer, Sander Jacobs,
Roy Furman/Jill Furman Willis, Freddy DeMann,
Robyn Goodman/Walt Grossman, Hal Luftig,
Roy Miller, The Weinstein Company, Broadway Across America


West Side Story
(West Side Story Website)

Original Production Directed and Choreographed by Jerome Robbins

Music by Leonard Bernstein
Book by Arthur Laurents
Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Directed by Arthur Laurents
Choreography Reproduced by Joey McKneely
Music Supervisor/Music Director: Patrick Vaccariello

Starring: Matt Cavenaugh, Josephine Scaglione,
Karen Olivo, Cody Green, George Akram, Curtis Holbrook

And an ensemble of actors/singers/dancers as
The Jets, The Sharks, The Adults

Palace Theatre
Broadway and 47th Street

Scenic Design: James Youmans
Costume Design: David C. Woolard
Lighting Design: Howell Binkley
Sound Design: Dan Moses Schreier
Wigs & Hair Design: Mark Adam Rampmeyer
Associate Director: Marc Bruni
Makeup Design: Angelina Avallone
Casting: Howard/Schecter/Hardt
Assoc. Director: David Saint
Associate Choreographer: Lori Werner
Assoc. Producer: Lams Productions
Translations: Lin-Manuel Miranda
Orchestrations: Leonard Bernstein with
Sid Ramin and Irwin Kostal
Musical Coordinator: Michael Keller
Production Stage Manager: Joshua Halperin
Original Broadway Co-Choreography by Peter Gennaro
Technical Supervisor: Brian Lynch
General Management: Charlotte Wilcox Company
Marketing: Scott A. Moore
Press: Barlow*Hartman

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
March 26, 2009

West Side Story, directed once again by the indefatigable Arthur Laurents, now in his 90’s, who wrote the original book, is the best Broadway revival this season, musical or drama. Leonard Bernstein’s score played in my mind for days, even incredibly in advance of seeing the show, and Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics and Jerome Robbins’ choreography were just as engaging and electric as I remembered them. From the moment the Jets and Sharks rumble, the musical tension builds with choreographed athletics in the Uptown city streets, under towering metal sets that frame the dark underbelly of 1950’s ethnic rivalries. West Side Story is the contemporary Shakespearean tale of Romeo and Juliet, a modern story ballet with songs and dance in two Acts. Instead of Prokofiev (as in the classical story ballet) we get Bernstein, but the emotional edge remains poignant and propulsive.

What’s fresh about this revival is the translation of several songs into Spanish, with Puerto Rican dialect. This, for me, was a highlight, a bridge to natural communication and affect. The dual languages enhanced the mood and the motif of ethnic diversity and disconnection. “I Feel Pretty” in Act II, sung by the lyrical and lovely Josefina Scaglione (Maria) becomes “Siento Hermosa”, and “A Boy Like That” also in Act II, sung by the sassy-sexy-scintillating Karen Olivo (Anita) becomes “Un Hombre Asi”. The audience was enthused by Act II, with its full Latin embellishment. Act I sets the tone and drama, and when the impassioned and vulnerable Matt Cavenaugh (Tony) and Maria sing their first “Tonight”, their youthful vibrancy and fragile dreams synthesize before our eyes.

The success of this production is due to the outstanding cast, with its authentic, unseasoned persona, plus the fast and furious dance ensembles. Mr. Cavenaugh has an adolescent attitude and feverish urgency that shone through in “Something’s Coming”, “Maria”, and his duo with Ms. Scaglione, “One Hand, One Heart”. Ms. Scaglione was like a dewy, new rose, blooming with delight, even in emotional and musical combat with Anita (“A Boy Like That”, sung in Spanish, against Maria’s “I Have a Love”, sung in English). Karen Olivo is a diva dancer, leaping across the stage like a shooting star, ruffling her skirt (“America”, with Rosalia and the Shark Girls), acting with precise polish and fiery charisma. As Riff (Leader of the Jets) and Bernardo (Leader of the Sharks), Cody Green and George Akram, as well, looked the part of vigorous youths, trapped in the culture and fearful of unguarded moments. They danced, sang, and acted with intense muscularity. They filled the air with spirit and spitfire, especially when joined by their respective gangs. Yet, they exuded a level of attraction that smoothed the way for the melodic, but explosive score.

Ryan Steele, as Baby John, caught my eye, as did Curtis Holbrook, as Action, a member of the Jets. A boy soprano was onstage singing “Somewhere”, with Tony, Maria, and the Ensembles of Jets and Sharks. And, Jennifer Sanchez, as Rosalia, Maria’s friend, along with Danielle Polanco and Kat Nejat, as Consuela and Fernanda, were all breezy and ebullient. Steve Bassett, Lee Sellars, and Greg Vinkler, as Lt. Shrank, Officer Krupke, and Doc, kept their roles from turning campy, while adding humor and maturity to the rambunctious scenes. James Youmans’ ever-shifting sets, in The Neighborhood, in Doc’ Drugstore, in the Gym, under The Highway, or in Maria’s Bedroom, were uncluttered, credible, and descriptive. John McNeely’s recreated choreography pulsed in tightly timed rhythms, in seamless sync with the Orchestra, thanks to Patrick Vaccariello’s masterful musicality as Conductor and Music Director. David C. Woolard’s costumes are vibrant, and Howell Binkley’s lighting highlights dark, seamy streets and Maria’s warm, girlish bedroom. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical lyric translations merged perfectly with the tempo of the songs. Kudos to Arthur Laurent for tireless stamina and for courageous innovations in a much-loved, much-revered Broadway icon.

The Company in "West Side Story"
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

Josefina Scaglione as Maria
and Matt Cavenaugh as Tony
in "West Side Story"
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

Josefina Scaglione as Maria
in "West Side Story"
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

Karen Olivo as Anita
and George Akram as Bernardo
with the Company
in "West Side Story"
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

Cody Green as Riff and the Jets
in "West Side Story"
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

Karen Olivo as Anita
and Shark Girls
in "West Side Story"
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

Manuel Herrera, George Akram,
and Yurel Echezaretta
in "West Side Story"
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

Oliver Tickets > Dirty Dancing Tickets > Musical Tickets > Jimmy Carr Tickets >
Peter Kay Tickets > Ricky Gervais Tickets > Theatre Tickets

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at