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West Side Story Dazzles At The Chance Theater

By Brian Hews

If you like to be “right in the action” of a great musical or play, then West Side Story at the intimate Chance theater is the show for you. Patrons sit on each side of the “New York Alley”, which is about forty feet long by ten feet wide, three rows on each side, with a clear view of all the cast members. If you are in the front row, as I was, the dancer/actors come close enough to touch you.

THE JETS GET READY TO RUMBLE.

Did I forget to mention the musical adaptation is great too? Well it is. With terrific  musical direction by Robyn Wallace (Rooms: A Rock Romance), deft choreography by Kelly Todd (Jerry Springer: The Opera) and superb direction by Chance Theater’s Artistic Director Oanh Nguyen, the musical takes a fresh, contemporary look at this timeless exploration of ethnic tensions and youthful passion, giving new impact and energy to the story.
Imagine sitting in the theater watching the opening “Prologue”; a primer as Jets and Sharks square off in a preview of the Act One closer, The Rumble. The Dance At The Gym was incredible; I really thought one of the dancers was going to slam into me, but their partner immediately snapped them back. This part of Act One was one of the best of the musical with the climax of Tony (Keaton Williams) and Maria (Gina Velez) meeting in the middle. Next up was of course Tony singing a great rendition of Maria-bouncing around the stage already in love after one meeting, the two seeing each other later in the back window singing the always beautiful Tonight.
The play moved on to a deftly choreographed America by Anita (Chelsea Baldree), Rosalia (Elena Murray), Consuela (Rebecca Fondiler), Francisca (Makenzie Gomez) again showing their skills on a very small stage. The Act ended with Tony and Maria singing One Hand, One Heart.
Act two began with Maria, Rosalia, Consuela, and Francisco in the boutique singing I Feel Pretty, with a Gee, Officer Krupke providing a welcome break  from the gang brutality that comes with the musical,  followed by a great version of Somewhere.
The cast of twenty-five is strong. Blue denim and tattoos for  the Jets; well-dressed Sharks. Keaton Williams’  Tony is youthful, Gina Velez’ Maria the girl next door; Chelsea Baldree is an impudent Anita; Robert Wallace’s Bernardo the perfect racist attitude; Israel Cortez’s Chino as usual resists the gang; Gasper Spinosa’s Riff is a great Jets leader, and Brian Alexander’s Action the always present firebrand.
West Side Story is presented by and at Chance Theater, 5552 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim Hills. July 13–Aug. 12. Thu. and Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 and 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 and 7 p.m. (714) 777-3033 or
www.chancetheater.com.

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