Thursday, March 19, 2009

West Side Story


Music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by Arthur Laurents. Dir. Arthur Laurents. Chor. reproduced by Joey McKneely (original chor. Jerome Robbins). Palace Theatre.

Once again the disparate responses of the critics results in a B- grade. The reviews of this anticipated revival are positive overall, especially for Karen Olivo as Anita. Many critics also fell in love with newcomer Josefina Scaglione as Maria. While less enamored with Matt Cavenaugh's Tony, reviewers warm to their on-stage chemistry. James Youmans receives praise for his gritty sets, as does Joey McKneely for his recreations of Jerome Robbins' choreography. Although critics do not embrace all of Arthur Laurents' decisions, most notably the new ending, they also credit him with the success of this production. Some critics completely buy into a darker West Side Story, while others think that the clean-cut Jets undermine Laurents' attempts at realism. As for the much-hyped Spanish translations, they are deemed in most reviews to be an unnecessary gimmick.

Back Stage A+
(David Sheward) It happened for me during "America." I forgot I was sitting in a Broadway theatre watching professional actors in a revival of West Side Story. I was spying on a group of high-spirited girls kidding each other about living in New York after enduring the poverty of their native Puerto Rico. They weren't executing Jerome Robbins' classic choreography, as re-created by Joey McKneely, on James Youmans' darkly evocative ghetto set; they were flouncing their skirts, jumping on stoops, and inhabiting a specific place and time. This authenticity is only partially due to the Spanish translation of many of the Latino scenes and two of the songs ("I Feel Pretty" and "A Boy Like That"), by Lin-Manuel Miranda of In the Heights fame. The scenes are so real that no English supertitles are required to convey their meaning.

The New Yorker A
(John Lahr) From the musical’s first beats—which tone down the finger-snapping thrust of Bernstein’s signature prologue with pauses that allow us to take in the individual gang members—Laurents announces his intention to leave his fingerprints on the classic. They don’t smudge its beauty; in fact, his attempts to heighten the show’s realism only enhance it. In his version, the gang members actually look like teen-agers; the Latina chorus girls are not Broadway beautiful; the costumes (by David C. Woolard) and set designs (by James Youmans) explore the subtle, shadowy ranges of a color palette that takes the show away from glitzy spectacle and toward a grittier, more muted stylization. By eliminating blackouts between scenes, Laurents also adds to the story’s tension. The evening as a whole feels sculpted—no gesture, no word, no visual choice is arbitrary or wasted. Laurents’s most innovative touch is to have the Puerto Ricans sometimes speak and sing in Spanish. Fifty years on, in a multicultural America, this decision makes the production feel fresh; it also allows the show to dispense with some of Sondheim’s rookie mistakes.

Variety A
(David Rooney) Following his emotionally charged "Gypsy" revival last season, book writer Laurents has again dusted off one of his classic shows for a new generation, remaining faithful to the original conception while adding new textures to the drama. Most notable innovation is the choice to translate (via "In the Heights" composer Lin-Manuel Miranda) much of the Puerto Rican characters' dialogue and songs into Spanish. This heightens the division in the turf war between rival gangs the Sharks and the Jets, and is far less artificial than forcing people to convey extreme passion or grief in their second language. Audiences with no knowledge of Spanish will hardly feel adrift, however, in that the stakes in this urban "Romeo and Juliet" update are rendered more lucid by the dramatic integrity of the staging. And the feelings of lovestruck joy conveyed in "I Feel Pretty," or of bitter sorrow dueling with the conviction of the heart in "A Boy Like That," all but transcend words.

CurtainUp A
(Simon Saltzman) Much credit is due In the Heights writer Lin-Manuel Miranda for integrating Latino Spanish so expertly into the libretto. Apparently English supertitles (projected translations) were tried in Washington and quickly deemed unnecessary. The only other song in which Spanish has completely replaced English is "A Boy Like That," Anita's passionately sung rebuke to Maria for choosing a native New Yorker over a Puerto Rican. Her rage is more intensely empowered by her cultural identity. Perhaps even more courageous are the stretches of Spanish dialogue that now work splendidly to further define the Jets in a community that treats them as intruders and second-class citizens. In Laurents' care and firmly committed direction, the tragic underpinnings that gird the plot remain as passionately considered as are the tender and soaring romantic episodes. Laurents and choreographer Joey McKneely (who has reproduced Robbins' original choreography) have fired up the large and terrifically lean, mean and good-looking company into a formidable confederation of Jets and Sharks. The violent rumbles seem more violent than ever, the pulse-quickening challenge dance at the gym, Tony and Maria's lyrical escape dream ballet and all the other integrated dances embrace the show with both moments of grace and bolts of danger. For all its tinkering, the success of this revival is that it remains in synch with the heartbeat of the original.

Village Voice A
(Michael Feingold) The darkening touches that librettist-director Arthur Laurents has added seem natural rather than intrusive: the cops more nakedly bigoted than of old, the "Somewhere" dream and the ending more overtly hopeless. With a story and score so widely familiar, putting much of the Boricuan song and speech into Spanish adds a salsa flavor instead of confusion. Are the rival gangs too clean-cut, their behavior too show-bizzy, their dialogue too tidily arranged? Get real: Injecting an old romantic tale with street smarts doesn't make it a documentary; romance is its basic purpose. When the panther-leap syncopations of Leonard Bernstein's score grab you, and the sudden lunges of Robbins's dancers rivet you, romance doesn't turn socio-analytical; it lives refreshed.

Bloomberg News A-
(John Simon) In this staging, there are notable improvements, starting with the danced Prologue, in which the Jets and Sharks seem more numerous and threatening than ever before. Similarly, the near- rape of Maria’s friend Anita is more realistically terrifying. Maria and the Latino girls who sing the comic song “America” are shown doing things, such as nail polishing. Each gang member now has more of an individual personality. It was worth going to Argentina to find Josefina Scaglione for Maria; besides operatically trained singing and wonderfully spontaneous acting and dancing, she looks like innocence personified. As the more realistic Anita -- a role in which Chita Rivera, Rita Moreno and Debbie Allen have at various times dazzled, Karen Olivo manages to be perhaps even more impressive... James Youmans’s scenery, especially for the rumble under a bridge, is totally effective, and David C. Woolard’s costumes, with patches of the gangs’ defining colors popping up in unexpected bits of clothing, are always appropriate. Howell Binkley’s often expressionistic lighting is equally flawless. For me, the show’s ending has always been a bit of a letdown. Starting with Tony’s rather hugger-mugger shooting and ending with Maria’s distraught gun-brandishing, some music is needed here. Bernstein did attempt four or five musical endings that didn’t pass muster; perhaps he should have tried a few more. Still, such cavils are trifling. Next to the original production, this one, over half a century later, will prove by far the best revival any of us will get in our lifetime. See it and cherish it.

American Theater Web A-
(Andy Propst) To say that the world, or the show, "went away" – to borrow from one of Sondheim's lyrics for "West Side" – after Scaglione and Cavanaugh delivered a ravishing "Tonight," would not be entirely accurate, but I will admit to tearing from Scaglione's first notes, and eagerly anticipating the next moments in which Maria would sing. Before and after this duet, the pleasures of "West Side" are considerable and even if Scaglione were less movingly impressive, this revival is vital and vibrant. From the moment the curtain rises on James Youmans' black and white rendering of city buildings and the old elevated train tracks – expressionistic to start but made more so by Howell Binkley's striking lighting design – the production captivates and the menace that dooms Tony and Maria's sweet love is palpable.

Chicago Tribune A-
(Chris Jones) Fortunately for a new generation yet to see this show produced at this level, it retains the heart, soul and original moves and sounds of a theatrical masterpiece with Leonard Bernstein melodies so beautiful they reverberate deep in your chest. And yet this new production also radically updates and rejuvenates the show’s social milieu. It’s an ensemble-driven change—rather than the individual lead performances—that dominates the feeling and impact of this production. Most strikingly, the Puerto Rican members of The Sharks (all played by performers who are actually of Latin descent) are allowed to speak their native Spanish. For the most part. The show makes the serious mistake of backing away from that conceit when characters say things apparently deemed too important to the narrative—and when it does so, the effect is to remind everyone that it does not entirely have the courage of its own very smart convictions.

Time Out New York A-
(Adam Feldman) A longer review might permit more attention to the intelligent design of Howell Binkley’s lighting, James Youmans’s set, David C. Woolard’s costumes and Dan Moses Schreier’s sound; to the expert turns in small roles by Michael Mastro, Greg Vinkler, Tro Shaw and others; to the sheer excitement of seeing the huge cast in Robbins’s spectacular dances, and hearing Bernstein’s majestic score played by a full orchestra. This is Broadway in very fine form: standing up to face darkness head on, and unafraid to be a thing of beauty.

New York Post B+
(Elisabeth Vincentelli) The work of Bernstein and lyricist Stephen Sondheim is 75 percent of the reason this often-frustrating revival gets three stars: You can't underestimate the pleasure of hearing those songs played at full volume by a 30-piece orchestra. Add Jerome Robbins' iconic choreography (reproduced here by Joey McKneely), and you have lightning in a bottle. Yet at least one person thinks the aforementioned elements aren't the point: Arthur Laurents, who wrote the book back in 1957 and directs this production, has snipped that "the original was about dancing and singing."... What do we remember of this production, then? Laurents may not like the answer, but it's precisely what the original was about: the singing and the dancing. "West Side Story" had not been seen on Broadway in almost three decades. For a new generation to discover it live is almost good enough.

The New York Times B+
(Ben Brantley) The best news is how newly credible and affecting the show’s central love story becomes in this context, with Matt Cavenaugh and Josefina Scaglione as the doomed Tony, an idealistic Polish-American, and the virginal Puerto Rican Maria. As Mr. Sondheim has observed, “There are no characters in ‘West Side,’ nor can there be.” They are by necessity, he said, “one-dimensional characters for a melodrama.”... For me revisiting “West Side Story” has always meant tolerating the woodenness of its lovers to get to the good stuff: the score, the kinetic fireworks of the dancing and the brash vibrancy of Maria’s best friend, Anita (played here by Karen Olivo, who delivers big-time). But this “West Side Story” is most enthralling when Tony and Maria cross the ethnic divide to pursue the pipe dream of happiness together. Mr. Cavenaugh (on Broadway in “Urban Cowboy” and “Grey Gardens”) and Ms. Scaglione (a 21-year-old newcomer from Argentina) fulfill the starry-eyed obligations of playing young folks struck by a love that arrives like a lightning bolt, propelling them into an enchanted, oblivious world of purple declarations of passion. But they also provide specific and surprising shadings of character that make Tony and Maria at least partly responsible for their fate instead of passive victims.

Theatermania B
(David Finkle) In revising West Side Story to guarantee it feels as persuasive as possible, Laurents does make a few missteps. The most obvious is the scene at the very end when Maria is tending to Tony's fallen body in the playground. Originally, members of both chastened gangs formed a respectful retreat while the policemen looked on. Now, claiming that no law enforcement officer would allow such a brazen removal of evidence, Laurents has trimmed the number of witnesses and keeps them on the spot. At the very least, he should have brought all gang members back -- and contrite -- at the slow curtain. But although Laurents dilutes the ending of his own work, he nonetheless retains the heated theatrical magic that always was and always will be West Side Story.

Entertainment Weekly B
(Melissa Rose Bernardo) Finally, everyone can stop complaining about ''I Feel Pretty.'' Stephen Sondheim has said his lyrics made him ''cringe'' (example: ''I feel pretty/Oh, so pretty/I feel pretty and witty and bright/And I pity/Any girl who isn't me tonight''); librettist Arthur Laurents thought it never belonged in the show. In the new Broadway revival of West Side Story, it's called ''Siento Hermosa,'' as translated by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the Tony-winning composer-lyricist-creator of Broadway's hit In the Heights: ''Hoy me siento tan preciosa/Tan graciosa que puedo volar/Y no hay diosa/En el mundo que me va alcanzar.'' It's rendered irresistibly by Argentine ingénue Josefina Scaglione — this production's enchanting Maria — and her sassy backup singers (Jennifer Sanchez, Danielle Polanco, Kat Nejat). So much so that it becomes more than a mere throwaway song for a simpering love-struck teen, more than just an upbeat start to Act 2 to distract the audience after Act 1's deadly finale. Now it's a revealing character song, a cheeky girl-group number, and a giggly slumber-party scene rolled into one.

Los Angeles Times B
(Charles McNulty) The show’s indestructibility, if ever in doubt, is now beyond doubt. Laurents’ direction, while not a miscarriage, is extremely patchy, particularly when the plotting gets complicated. As with his recent Broadway staging of “Gypsy,” that other bellwether of the American musical he co-authored, the blocking of key narrative moments can get smudgy. Fortunately, just as you’re noticing that Scaglione’s singing is a whole lot better than her acting and Cavenaugh is about as tough as a lanky J. Crew model, a Jerome Robbins dance number, vibrantly reproduced by Joey McKneely, whisks you into an ecstasy zone where all such complaints seem trivial. Unfolding on an impressionistically grimy New York set designed by James Youmans and lighted by Howell Binkley to suggest an urban inferno, the musical manages to stay one step ahead of its production’s shortcomings... Laurents is smart to up the vicious criminal ante, but he’s not able to make sense of “Gee, Officer Krupke,” the song in which Bernstein and Sondheim impose a bit of vaudevillian shtick on the Jets. Played with less musical theater relish than usual, the number fails as both sociological portraiture and comic relief. But who cares? “West Side Story” still tops nearly every other musical that’s followed it. Laurents’ uneven production may be noteworthy for the way characters slip in and out of Spanish, but the show continues to seduce in a theatrical language that remains universal.

Washington Post B-
(Peter Marks) To put it plainly, the Jets, those angry, sneering products of America's social breakdown, have been miscast. They come across in this version as if they were the kinds of classroom scamps who were candidates for detention rather than three-to-five in the state pen. Sure, it's a challenge, embodying a thug while singing Leonard Bernstein's satiny music and leaping gazelle-like to Jerome Robbins's balletic choreography. And yet, they don't for a minute allow us to believe that they could sow violence at the slightest provocation... What you have, then, is a "West Side Story" that fulfills many of the basic requirements -- it's even more exhilaratingly danced and sung than in Washington -- without the urban insouciance that first stamped the musical as one-of-a-kind. It is left to the captivating Karen Olivo, in the surefire role of Bernardo's girlfriend, Anita, to vent all the restlessness and fire of these young people, fighting the tides of 1950s privation and intolerance.

NY1 C+
(Roma Torre) Laurents injected added realism by having the Sharks speak in their native Spanish much of the time. And Lin Manuel Miranda of "In the Heights" fame had the task of translating two very familiar songs, "I Feel Pretty" and "A Boy Like That" into "Siento Hermosa" and "Un Hombre Asi." The result is very effective and certainly deepens the characters. The problem is the renewed focus on gritty realism forces more scrutiny on the rest of the elements. The gang members are hardly threatening at all. Only Action, played by the terrifically versatile Curtis Holbrook, suggests any real violent menace. And in a case of unfortunate miscasting, Matt Cavenaugh playing heartthrob and former gang leader Tony seems all wrong. His testosterone level is lacking, not to mention any romantic chemistry with his leading lady.

The Daily News C+
(Joe Dziemianowicz) Forget the Sharks' and Jets' bad boys. It's the girls who rule in this uneven new Broadway production of "West Side Story," which manages only intermittently to take us "somewhere" special. Karen Olivo, as Anita, gives the show's most thrilling performance. With her hair, skirt and legs flying and her voice soaring, she all but achieves liftoff during the dazzling "America."... Unfortunately, the principal guys don't fare as well, starting with Maria's ill-fated love, Tony. Matt Cavenaugh has a fine tenor, but his body language and diction, with its odd hints of New England, seem out of place on Manhattan's mean streets, if not in Maria's arms. By acting every note of "Something's Coming," he turns optimism into spun sugar.

Newsday C+
(Linda Winer) As promised, new director (and original author) Arthur Laurents has darkened the violence in his bilingual revival of the 1957 landmark musical that transports Romeo and Juliet to mean-street Manhattan. The discovery, also as promised, is Josefina Scaglione, the young Argentine beauty who plays Maria with a luminous girl-woman impetuousness and a luscious, easygoing high soprano. But except for the statuesque Karen Olivo as a spectacular space-eating Anita, the casting is just all right. The physical production is surprisingly conventional - modest in imagination if not in budget. And despite the tougher edge in Joey Mc-Kneely's reconsideration of Jerome Robbins' character-defining choreography, the second-act ballet sequence, "Somewhere," is as sappy as a love-in and sung by a boy soprano. Why do the Jets pretend to row a boat in a hard-hitting "Gee, Officer Krupke"? And how are we to buy the concept's gritty new realism when the Jets have the same artfully applied smudges on their faces throughout the show?

Associated Press C+
(Michael Kuchwara) The production is under the direction of Arthur Laurents, the man responsible for the musical's original book. He's done some tweaking of the star-crossed tale of Tony and Maria, young lovers from the two different New York gangs, but it still seems a little sketchy and slow, even with some surprising innovations. And its emotional impact is oddly muted. Not so those Robbins' dances, which grab you right from the show's Prologue and then explode periodically throughout the evening. One such detonation is the Dance at Gym when the rival gangs go head to head in a swirling, temperature-raising contest; another is "America," a high-kicking salute by the spirited Anita and the other Puerto Rican girls to their adopted country. Robbins' choreography, recreated here by Joey McKneely, defines both character and story. Watch the movement that accompanies "Somewhere," a hymn for a better future, first sung by Tony and Maria and then danced by the company as an expression of hope.

NYMag C+
(Stephanie Zacharek) This production exposes too baldly the central flaw of the libretto: Tony and Maria, the Romeo and Juliet stand-ins (played here by Matt Cavenaugh and Josefina Scaglione), may be nice kids, but they’re also the show’s least interesting characters; Tony, in particular, is something of a drip. Cavenaugh and Scaglione transmit the required innocence and purity, but neither is charismatic enough to make the production feel fully alive. Standing with his fists clenched, his inverted triangle of a torso displayed beneath a fitted shirt, Cavenaugh has the faux-casual air of an underwear model from a sixties Sears catalogue. That can hardly be Cavenaugh’s fault: More likely, Laurents’s original conception of Tony is so comfortably familiar to him that he can hardly envision the character any other way. (Clips of Larry Kert’s Tony, from the original production, show him standing with the same stiff, assertive posture.) On the other hand, as Anita, Karen Olivo—with the feline sauciness of Eartha Kitt, and legs as long as Central Park—is the show’s most vital presence: In the still brashly effective “Tonight” quintet, she stands in silhouette dressed only in a skimpy chemise, looking forward not to the upcoming rumble between the rival gangs, but to the action she’ll see afterward, with her boyfriend, Bernardo. She’s a girl with an appetite: Not only does she like to live in America, she’s ready to eat it whole. And although the show’s newly translated dialogue comes off, overall, as more novelty than meaningful reimagining, when Anita sings “A Boy Like That” in Spanish (“Un Hombre Así”), her derision and fear are so vivid they bust through the confines of language. Olivo gives West Side Story its percussive pulse. In her, the spirit of 1957 lives.

(Matt Windman) “West Side Story” is a dated but great show. Little else can compare with its incredible integration of song, movement and dialogue. And the ingredients and production values necessary to make an outstanding production were definitely present. Unfortunately, Arthur Laurents’ ego ruined it for everyone. The performances vary in success. Matt Cavenaugh is truly miscast as Tony, looking far too clean and aged for the role and singing in an ugly vocal style. 21-year-old Josefina Scaglione sings sweetly but her acting is unnaturally forced. However, Karen Olivo is fiery, sexy and vigorous as Anita, Maria’s mature companion. And anger runs through Curtis Holbrook as Action like an electric current.

Hollywood Reporter C
(Frank Scheck)The idea that a musical as brilliant as "West Side Story" would require reinventing seems a bit dubious, and the doubts are confirmed by the new Broadway revival. Reconceived and staged by its original book writer Arthur Laurents to achieve a new level of grittiness, this production features a lot of tweaks -- most notably the use of Spanish for two of the songs and some of the dialogue -- that don't add appreciably to its impact. And unlike the 91-year-old Laurents' recent smash revival of "Gypsy," this production is further undercut by some significant deficiencies in the staging and performances.

Hartford Courant C
(Malcolm Johnson) There are two songs in Act Two: "Siento Hermosa" ("I Feel Pretty") and "Un Hombre Asi" ("A Boy Like That"), both translated from Stephen Sondheim's lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator and star of "In the Heights." The original words appear in the program, but there are no supertitles for those ignorant of Spanish. A greater problem is the inconsistency of the use of Spanish. When Anita sings "America" with Rosalia and the Shark girls, the lyrics are in English. Spanish words are sprinkled throughout Act One, but when Maria and Anita converse in the bridal shop, it is mostly in English. The failure to use Spanish naturally exposes the device as flimsy, gimmicky. This split personality is unfortunate, because the new production staged by the librettist, Arthur Laurents, has much to commend it.

The Record C-
(Robert Feldberg) The revival of “West Side Story” that opened Thursday night at the Palace Theatre was advertised as a grittier and tougher – more relevant – version of the landmark 1957 musical. It isn't... The problem starts, in retrospect, at the very beginning of the show when Maria, newly arrived from Puerto Rico, speaks English – very good English — with her friend Anita (Karen Olivo) for an entire scene. Later, when the pair, and others, converse in Spanish, you wonder what that early English scene was all about. Sometimes, Spanish dialogue is awkwardly mixed with English – most likely to explain what’s happening to audience members who don’t understand Spanish – and sometimes the Spanish is accompanied by exaggerated gestures or miming to get the meaning across.

USA Today C-
(Elysa Gardner) West Side Story didn't need a culturally correct face-lift. While the film adaptation has its cartoonish aspects, as Laurents has duly noted, the musical is and always has been fundamentally anti-xenophobic. We root not for the Jets or the Sharks but for Tony and Maria, who want to reject the fear and small-mindedness surrounding them. It's certainly not hard to root for Matt Cavenaugh's handsome, likable Tony, or the angelic but warmly coquettish Maria of Josefina Scaglione, whose sterling lyric soprano is perfectly suited to the role. Karen Olivo's witty, fiery Anita is another asset; she may not be the best dancer to ever tackle the role, but Joey McKneely's reproduction of Jerome Robbins' choreography lets her shine and the others soar. To a point, that is. The irony is that Laurents' attempts to be inclusive and grittily realistic — the final scene in particular suffers for his insistence on technical accuracy — make the show seem no fresher, only a tiny bit less magical.

Wall Street Journal F+
(Terry Teachout) Mr. Laurents's down-and-dirty approach might have been made to work if he'd scrapped Robbins's dances and had the whole show rechoreographed from scratch. Even so, he would have had to reckon with the blandness of his stars. The only one who stands out is Karen Olivo, lately of "In the Heights," who is blowtorch-hot as Anita. Not so Matt Cavenaugh (Tony), Josefina Scaglione (Maria) and Cody Green (Riff), all of whom are competent but uncharismatic. Nor are James Youmans's big, ugly inner-city sets an improvement on the stylized fire escapes and chain-link fences that Oliver Smith created in 1957. I give Arthur Laurents credit for wanting to make "West Side Story" new -- especially given the fact that the Robbins-supervised 1980 Broadway revival, a carbon copy of the original production, wasn't very successful -- but no amount of tough-guy retouching can make "West Side Story" into anything other than what it is, a starry-eyed group portrait of a bunch of basically nice kids who find themselves caught up in an unforgiving world of violence and hate. To pretend otherwise, as this staging mostly does, is to get wrong what Mr. Laurents and his collaborators got so gloriously right a half-century ago.

Talkin' Broadway F+
(Matthew Murray) The impact of Robbins’s advancements has been dulled over the last five decades: by time, by countless other productions and a famous film version, and by the many musicals and choreographers that Robbins’s work inspired. And, unfortunately, West Side Story without genre-overturning choreography is really not much of a story at all, composed almost exclusively of one-dimensional characters acting on their most primal lusts. So although this isn’t a show that’s dated in the traditional sense (it’s a shade too fantastical for that), and Leonard Bernstein’s music still retains for most a glorious romantic sweep, it’s not exactly relevant to the world or the theatre of today. It’s hardly a surprise, then, that Laurents, who as a director transformed Gypsy into a Gorgonian mugfest last season, would attempt to revise and reconceive this one as well. He’s exerted a stronger hand on his actors and made tiny adjustments to his book, but his most daring choice has been to have the Sharks speak and sing in Spanish. Although a fascinating idea, especially as implemented by the fearless young Lin-Manuel Miranda (a 2008 Tony winner for his music and lyrics for In the Heights), in practice the notion strips the show of what little complexity it had. F
(Martin Denton) The set, by James Youmans, is big and ugly, leaving little room on the stage for movement. The costumes, by David C. Woolard, are of no particular period: Anita and the Shark girls wear clothes appropriate to the '50s, when West Side Story was written, but the Jets' girls are in mini-skirts from a decade later and the boys' attire (and haircuts) feel very much of today. (Why?) Laurents has not altered the show's book very much, except to have the Puerto Rican characters sometimes speak in Spanish. This has been the most commented-upon aspect of this revival; it feels like a gimmick, and a poorly applied one at that. These people chat in Spanish to each other but when their emotions peak they revert to English, which is helpful to the audience but the opposite of what would happen in real life. The construct completely falls apart in Act 2, Scene 3, when Maria asks Anita to deliver a message to Tony: there's a policeman in the room with them, and Maria doesn't want him to know what she's talking about. Wouldn't this be the ideal moment for her to switch to Spanish?

Back Stage A+ 14; The New Yorker A 13; Variety A 13; CurtainUp A 13; Village Voice A 13; Bloomberg News A- 12; American Theater Web A- 12; Chicago Tribune A- 12; TONY A- 12; New York Post B+ 11; The New York Times B+ 11; Theatermania B 10; EW B 10; LA Times B 10; Washington Post B- 9; NY1 C+ 8; The Daily News C+ 8; Newsday C+ 8; Associated Press C+ 8; NYMag C+ 8; AMNY C 7; Hollywood Reporter C 7; Hartford Courant C 7; The Record C- 6; USA Today C- 6 Wall Street Journal F+ 2; Talkin' Broadway F+ 2; F 1; TOTAL: 253/28 = 9.04 (B-)

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