Review by Sharon Letovsky
On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of attending the opening night of West Side Story at the National Arts Centre’s main stage – Southam Hall. The theatre’s 2,323 seats were packed with an audience that was clearly thrilled with the performance.This particular rendering is produced by ‘Broadway Across Canada’ and ‘Broadway Across America’ …
. “B-A-C” & “B-A-A” are operated by British theatre producer John Gore & Thomas B. McGrath; who present first-class touring musicals in 40 cities across North America. This particular show began its tour in Charlotte, North Carolina last October.
Within seconds of the opening number, we saw the fantastic dance ability of the male chorus. Watching them execute perfect choreography with kicks straight up over their heads awed us before the first song ended. Led by the incredible duo of Nathan Keen as Riff and Jon Drake as Action, the Jets were marvelous. The remaining male chorus members, playing the Sharks and led by German Santiago were equally fabulous. The female chorus was incredible. Their dancing was exquisite, their timing perfect, and their voices sublime.
Evy Ortiz was absolutely outstanding as Maria; her crystal clear voice rang with power and emotion as she transported us into her world. When Ross Lekites (Tony) joined her in one of West Side Story’s signature songs Today, they brought chills to the spellbound audience. Not to be outdone, Michelle Aravena as Anita and Santiago as Bernardo were fabulous. These two were not only outstanding singers, but also incredible dancers; leading the dancing chorus in the fantastically choreographed and executed Dance at the Gym and America. We were spellbound.
Broadway’s West Side Story has been around for more than fifty years, opening in 1957. Many have seen it numerous times, if not on stage than certainly at home on our own television screens. The collaboration of Bernstein & Sondheim has become a musical standard. This production was as fresh and timeless as if it had been written yesterday. The curtain came down on the extremely moving closing scene, and before it had a chance to rise again for bows, the audience was on its feet for a standing ovation.
This reviewer highly recommends you do not miss this particular production of West Side Story, either at the NAC in Ottawa or when it comes to a hall near you. It is on-stage at Ottawa’s National Arts Centre until March 18th,