A ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME EXPERIENCE!
As patrons poured into Lyric Opera House Saturday evening for the opening of “West Side Story,” the iconic Jerome Robbins masterpiece that pits the Jets against the Sharks in the stark and troubled ‘50s-era New York City neighborhood, there was palpable excitement, as if the highly anticipated Francesca Zambello-directed juggernaut—a co-production two years in the making with Houston Grand Opera and Glimmerglass Festival—will certainly rip the roof away from Chicago’s biggest stage.
With expectations running high, it was no surprise to anyone that the true-to-original revival with Robbins’s choreography, massive scenic elements and a cast and orchestra of nearly 100, the results would be measured in degrees of extraordinary.
Those fortunate to be among the more than 3,500 in attendance savored every moment with reverential respect and appreciation. Then, as one, the throng erupted in a glorious, sustained and richly deserved tribute. Every pulsating note of Leonard Bernstein’s music and Stephen Sondheim’s matchless lyrics, as well as the explosive grip of the tragic love story by Arthur Laurents had been realized. Lyric Opera’s thrilling production of “West Side Story” is a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
In principal roles, Corey Cott and Mikaela Bennett play the star-crossed lovers, Tony and Maria; Amanda Castro plays Anita; Manuel Stark Santos is Bernardo; and Brett Thiele plays Riff. Cott’s solo performances of “Something’s Coming” and “Maria” and the duets “Tonight” and “One Hand, One Heart” with the enormously gifted Bennett are stunning. Castro raises the stakes in “America,” in the blistering “Dance at the Gym” with the charismatic Santos and the Sharks, and together with Bennett in the moving “A Boy Like That/I Have a Love.” The Jets, led by Theile’s Riff in “Cool” and Action (Adam Soniak) in “Gee, Officer Krupke,” are real cool.
Julio Monge brilliantly recreates the ground-breaking choreography of the 1957 Broadway production. Under the dynamic orchestral direction of conductor James Lowe, this is a sweeping musical saga of epic proportions, infused with youthful exuberance, iconic style and grit. The robust staging on an impressive Peter J. Davison urban cityscape, enriched by Mark McCullough’s stark and shadowy lighting and vibrant Jessica Jahn costumes, provides a magnificent backdrop.
After more than 60 years, the generational bias–so pervasive on the streets where the Jets and Sharks rumble–remains a stark and disturbing metaphor for the larger conversation of immigration reform and race relations occurring today. So, too, is the uneasy discussion swirling about law enforcement’s critical role in the face of rising crime and changing urban centers. No single character embodies the hot passion and grim reality of this inner story more than Castro’s commanding performance as Anita, whose buoyant personality, mixed with a cynical view on the immigrant experience, are borne out in the face of grief, sexual assault and anguish as Zambello’s powerful staging heightens the drama at the bitterly tragic end of Lyric Opera’s awe-inspiring production of “West Side Story.”
LYRIC OPERA OF CHICAGO
WEST SIDE STORY
through June 2nd
LYRIC OPERA HOUSE
20 N Wacker Drive
CORY LIPPIELLO-Casting West Side Story at Lyric (4/15/2019)
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