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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Beef and Boards’ production of West Side Story, which opened this week, is for me another of those very familiar shows for which I have long held an honest love and appreciation. Brought into the musical theatre world in 1957 with a book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein, and lyrics by a young Stephen Sondheim, the show had so much energetic and romantic appeal that even as a youth, I fell in love with the stylized score, the perfect, heart-rending words and the emotional storyline. It was an undeniable masterpiece and remains so after 60 years.

What director Eddie Curry and choreographer Ron Morgan have brought to B&B’s stage is a faithful yet updated rendition of the classic. This dance rich production pays due homage to Jerome Robbins’ original movements, which were so new to the theatre world in the late 50’s, but here Mr. Morgan opens his own bag of tricks and brings a surprising and imaginative new vision to the work. Mr. Curry innovates with his employment of a reduced cast and a confined setting, still developing engaging relationships and filling the stage with every necessary action, whether it be rumpus or romance.

Somewhere

Maria (Courtney Cheatham) and Tony (Glenn DeVar) imagine a place “Somewhere” where they are free to love in Beef & Boards’ production of “West Side Story”.

All the performances are true. Led by Courtney Cheatham’s Maria and Glenn DeVar as Tony, the talented cast tells this sometimes painful story with impressive abilities. Ms. Cheatham is blessed with an angel’s sweet voice and an innocent countenenace, perfect for the coming of age Maria. DeVar brings a likeable boyishness to his role, finding new range in the part with his fervent approach to Tony’s changing life.

A Young Lady of America

Maria (Courtney Cheatham), left, is excited for the dance she is about to attend with Anita (Marisa Rivera) and her brother Bernardo (Dan Higgins), in Beef & Boards’ production of “West Side Story”.

Marisa Rivera is a sultry Anita, showing strong dance skills and vocal abilities; Dan Higgins is commanding as Maria’s protective brother Bernardo; and Ben Cullen was impressive with his honest performance as Riff, the Jets de facto leader.

Cool

The Jets, led by Riff (Ben Cullen), center, learn to play it “Cool” in Beef & Boards’ production of “West Side Story”.

The dance corps, comprised of Jets, Sharks, and their girls carry out their assignments with aplomb, raising the roof in the many dance numbers and songs they are party to.

Lew Hackleman, Peter Scharbrough and Doug King round out the cast with effective portrayals of Doc, Krupke and Lt. Shranke, respectively.

Doc Im in love

Tony (Glenn DeVar) reassures Doc (Lew Hackleman) that everything will be ok for him and Maria in Beef & Boards’ production of “West Side Story”.

Though much of the show is ensemble in nature, the 5 leads are due ovations for their thoughtful and emotion driven turns onstage. Under director Curry’s deft hand, every familiar song is a joy to experience again, and every well remembered turn of events in the storytelling is offered with truth and depth.

I would be remiss to leave out the contributions of the wonderful orchestra lead by Terry Woods, which delivers the heart of the show through their fine rendering of the complex score. From the first familiar pulses, to the emotive final notes, Mr. Woods and his players give noteworthy performances.

Likewise, Jill Kelly Howe’s costumes give the various characters texture and placement in the world of the street.

Bottomline: I am too often underwhelmed when I attend a show I know so well and love so greatly, but as I sat in the darkness at the end of this production, wiping the moisture from my eyes, I knew this cast had fulfilled my wish for this show to be something special.

West Side Story continues at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre through October 1st. Show times and reservations can be viewed at http://www.beefandboards.com or you may call the box office at  317-872-9664.

* – Photos by Julie Curry

 

 

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