By Gavin West
On Friday, March 29th I had the privilege of witnessing our high school’s performance and adaptation of West Side Story. The atmosphere was immediately immersive with the actors, in costume, walking around assisting the audience to their seats. They also had actors walking the isles with concessions such as popcorn and water which was just an added bonus that I did not expect. Once seated I began to look through the program and could tell instantly how much emotion they had put into this production. After some time, they introduced the student director and mastermind behind it all, Abby McCormack. Then after thanking us as an audience for coming, she began the show with an uproar of energetic music followed with actors swarming the stage in a fantastically directed chaotic fight scene between our two rival gangs: the Jets and the Sharks. This is until officer Krumpke (played by Brandon Marshburn) and Lieutenant Schrank (fantastically done by Sawyer Shepard) show up to stop to it.
Lieutenant Schrank happened to have been my favorite character in the entire play just due to the depth that Sawyer gave his character, and his right hand man, Krumpke, was done very well by Brandon as a fun source of comedic relief.
The story then continues on and we are introduced to the leaders of each gang: Bernardo (Tre Leese) and Riff (Lucas Mills). We see the hatred the groups have for each other instantly, which sets the stage for the Romeo/Juliet like love between lead characters Tony (powerfully portrayed by Wyatt McCarter) and Maria (beautifully portrayed and performed by Katherine Sweat).
This performance was honestly an incredibly pleasant surprise to me after I had heard that opening night was a bit rough. The attention to detail and craftsmanship they poured into this play ranges from: secret steps in the fire escape wall for Tony to climb, to beautifully picked color schemes within scenes such as the school dance. Overall it was more than just appealing to the eyes, but was also appealing to the mind as well as the heart. Nearly every song was carried by a strong voice in the lead and sounded great; however, one thing I found myself thinking on countless occasions was, “Why is the music so loud? You can barely hear them singing.” Other than this, and a few missed lines, all I found was the actors looking at specific members of the audience during the show. Not only did this take away from the feeling of almost forgetting that it isn’t 1957, but it also broke the actors character each time he or she would gaze at an audience member. Although this did happen often, it only normally occurred only when the cast was singing.
While these may have brought my official rating for the play down, it did not much affect my personal score, for I found myself falling in love with certain characters and relating to their circumstances. Which is why overall I am happy to say that I was very proud and impressed with the 2019 chorus production of West Side Story.