‘West Side Story’ a story for our times shines at El Portal Theatre

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3000 Miles Off Broadway in association with Actors’ Repertory Theatre of Simi presented an extraordinary production of West Side Story at the historic El Portal Theatre in NoHo last weekend.

A huge cast filled the stage in a well-crafted outing for the classic Romeo and Juliet-inspired musical, written by Arthur Laurents, with music composed by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. The tragic clash between two cultures was relevant in 1957 during its Broadway debut, and now it reminds that the racial divide has escalated. Yet there was surprising sweetness shown in this version skillfully undertaken by Actors’ Rep producer/director Jan Glasband and co-director Caroline Esposito, plus producer Ron Kurtz of 3000 Miles Off-Broadway.

The Sharks and the Jets are fighting for control, but Tony, played with a soft romantic air by Jeff DeWitt, is seeking something better than gang life. Maria is played by Tina Hartell with the genuine glow of a first love’s purity. Hartell’s voice is angelic, making all of her songs special moments in the show.

Other highlights include every time Anita is on the stage, thanks to Sandra Diana Cantú giving her role fire and fury. Plus, Marco Antonio Sariñana as Bernardo, Nick Meyer as Riff, Natalie Esposito as Anybodys, Khemuni Horodom as Chino, and William Perry as Doc, are deserving of praise, along with the vibrant ensemble that embodies the “us against them” atmosphere.

Becky Castells choreographed the spirited dance numbers, and directors Glasband and Esposito brilliantly put a chilling spotlight on the cycle of gun violence at the end of this great show.

The historic El Portal Theatre, located at 5269 Lankershim Blvd. in North Hollywood, has many great productions on its upcoming schedule. Call for information at (818) 508-4200 or go online to ElPortalTheatre.com.

 

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