When you decide to bring the American Film Institute’s #2 best movie musical of all time back to the stage, the expectations are sky-high. What’s great about the Drury Lane Oakbrook production is that it meets those expectations and sets a new standard in many ways.
Multi-Jeff Award winner Rachel Rockwell created a production that is big and glorious, and colorful and dark, emotional and intense. It’s breathtaking and heartbreaking at that same time. The dance numbers use every part of the Drury Lane stage from the top to the bottom and from side to side. The dancers seem to embody the grittiness of the time and the anger building within the gangs.
Christina Nieves plays a Maria who is innocent and impulsive as she thinks about her new American life. She falls in love with Tony (Jim DeSelm) despite the dangers. Both are wonderful as young love illustrated. At times you flashback to your first love. You feel the initial rush and the warm glow.
Lucas Segovia is glorious in his first musical production. As a Joffrey Ballet dancer you know his mastery will shine throughout the choreography. His stage presence as Bernardo speaks of someone with far more musical theater experience. His nuanced performance balances his ethnic heritage and his dashed American dreams.
There are moments when the language is hard to hear. It is what you remember from the movie, but somehow on stage it seems more raw. The scene after the rumble when Anita goes into Doc’s grocery store is much harsher than the movie, and in many ways more real. It’s not a romantic view, but post-rumble anger and fear that fuel that scene.
West Side Story runs at the Drury Lane Oakbrook through Sunday, March 29. A recent press release noted that it’s officially the fastest-selling production in Drury Lane’s 30-year history. Don’t miss this performance. It’s a glorious example of what a big vision can do for an iconic musical production.