I love musical theatre, and watching West Side Story, you can’t help but feel that this is a team that loves performing passionately and performing well. That’s exactly what The Festival Players’ West Side Story does as it brings to stage a strong cast, a talented choreographer and director, and the unforgettable story of this New York City tragedy.
Today’s gangs would totally wear skinny jeans and V-necked shirts, with the sides of their hair tastefully shaved to emphasize a perfectly suave comb-over—just like the cast of The Festival Player’s West Side Story. This take on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet revolves around the forbidden romance of Tony and Maria, and the rivalry between two competing local gangs: the immigrant Sharks and second generation Jets. The show is youthful, bringing energy and an eager cast to the stage. There are so many small things tying this show together that you’re sure to enjoy yourself.
The little nuances throughout Shelley Tookey’s choreography in each musical number are intricate and thoughtful. Her cast is peppered with talented dancers and musically-experienced actors, and it clearly shows in the contemporary and Broadway-style dance pieces that accompany these well-known songs. Careful attention has clearly been paid to the dancing, with group numbers in the second act (namely: “Somewhere”) being the highlights of the entire show. Watch out for the dancing in “America,” and “Gee, Officer Krupke,” especially. Lastly, a small tribute must be paid to set and costuming:
there isn’t a screw or thread out of place on this stage, and it only emphasizes how well the show has come together.
While there are some small hiccups (a few missed cues and some awkward staging), they in no way detract from a rich and well-performed show. There isn’t a single bad vocalist in the group. Taylor Fawcett’s Tony is endearing and passionate, a perfect counterweight to Katherine Pohoreski’s Maria’s impressively high, light soprano. And what a performance from Maria—if you’re not affected by her phenomenal acting, then you can compliment her graceful dancing. This opening night did not suffer from dry eyes.
With so many experienced members on the team, this performance comes off as dedicated and exceptionally polished. The Festival Players have done their job well, and have many reasons to be proud.
The Festival Players’ West Side Story is playing at Festival Place in Sherwood Park until December 30th.
Photography and banner art courtesy of Bottom Line Productions