One of many breathtaking moments in director Ivo van Hove’s daring, attractive multi-media re-imagining of the good New York musical West Facet Story comes when these famously brawling avenue gangs restrain the story’s star-crossed lovers from kissing. All sides pulls its personal, tug-of-war-style, one holding again Tony, the opposite Maria, and it takes each final Jet and Shark to do the job. They succeed, roughly and simply barely.
If there’s a brisker, extra vivid strategy to interpret “Tonight,” that traditional ballad of hope and anticipation, it doubtless hasn’t been seen since this 1957 Broadway masterwork debuted all these a long time in the past. The tableau – directly humorous and ominous – is about towards a video backdrop depicting a New York avenue as wet and stuffed with shadow as any movie noir. Theatrical stylization collides bang-on with cinematic realism, and the result’s thrilling.
Broadway’s ‘The Inheritance’ Sets Closing Notice
Opening tonight on the Broadway Theatre, van Hove’s West Facet Story has already made greater than its share of headlines, whether or not about injured dancers or avenue protests or dumping the too-precious “I Really feel Fairly” or just the audacity of changing Jerome Robbins’ beloved and iconic choreography for a brand new, extra modern take by van Hove’s fellow Belgian Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker. This assessment will concern itself solely with what’s on stage.
And that’s greater than sufficient. With scenic and lighting design by van Hove’s longtime collaborator Jan Versweyveld, and video projections by Luke Halls that greater than bolster the argument for lastly giving that artwork its very personal Tony Award class, this West Facet Story fills the huge performing area on the Broadway Theatre with continuous motion each on the stage and on the drive-in theater-size display screen behind it.
Small thrives maintain their very own towards grand visible statements: When Tony (Isaac Powell) and Maria (Shereen Pimentel) sing to at least one one other as they lean towards a mirror, their breath frosts the glass in momentary designs (a beautiful element we see courtesy of van Hove’s trademark video cameras). When rain falls by means of a lot of the ultimate act, the downpour, soaking the stage and fantastically lit by Versweyveld, creates a cinematic impact that solely a dancer cautious of slipping might begrudge.
Maybe it’s precisely that visible hustle and bustle which may polarize audiences, with huge video pictures typically flashing close-ups of the onstage motion, typically taking a Busby Berkeley chook’s-eye-view perspective and nonetheless different instances displaying pre-taped visions of near-empty metropolis streets at night time, the occasional glimpse of silhouetted dancers within the distance.
There’s a easy reply to anybody questioning the place to look: In all places.
Be happy to deal with the nose-to-nose on-screen close-ups of two warring gang members, or the security-camera view of a sexual assault in a soda store’s backroom, or the rousing choreography that has the complete, stage-filling ensemble transferring with the sweeping, swarming precision of a flock of starlings.
De Keersmaeker’s motion design, with references to the luxurious vivacity of Latino tradition and the stark minimalism of latest dance (an sudden, in-unison sway drew audible gasps from the viewers on the reviewed efficiency), ought to go away few however essentially the most loyal of Broadway sentimentalists refusing to observe West Facet Story outdoors Robbins’ wonderful steps. If Daniel Fish’s darkish, good interpretation of Oklahoma! taught us something, it’s to make room for brand new, deserving visions.
With Pimentel as a more durable, extra streetwise Maria than Natalie Wooden might have imagined, and a star-making efficiency by Powell as a completely lovable Tony, this West Facet Story disregards, or, extra precisely, rises above the strict ethnic representations seemingly demanded by the plot: With out altering a phrase of Arthur Laurents’ ebook – the Sharks are nonetheless described as newly arrived from Puerto Rico, the Jets as the one barely extra longstanding New Yorkers of Italian and Polish descent – van Hove populates the gangs with faces of each shade, avenue warriors from wave after wave of the town’s immigrants.
If the strategy displays New York’s previous, van Hove’s West Facet Story is completely 2020 (there’s an overtly homosexual couple or two amongst these Sharks and Jets). The costume design by An D’Huys is a mash-up of athletic put on, a contact of leather-based, unbuttoned silky shirts, skinny denims and Chuck Taylors tossed along with Daisy Dukes and tank-tops, a vaguely post-Apocalyptic look that brings the unique manufacturing’s ’50s-era rock and roll spirit to an age of hip-hop and East Village scruff.
Is it essential to reward Leonard Bernstein’s music and Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics? Simply mentioning a sampling of music titles ought to do the trick: “Jet Music,” “Maria,” “Someplace” and “One thing’s Coming,” incomparable anthems given terrific voice – for essentially the most half – by this huge forged. Some here-and-there weak moments pop up – “Jet Music” will get off to a shaky begin, and “America” is missing in Rita Moreno – however extra typically the reinterpretations are dazzling. “A Boy Like That/I Have A Love” showcases pretty harmonies between Pimentel’s Maria and Yesenia Ayala’s Anita, and a fierce “Gee, Officer Krupke” transforms comedian teenage rebel into lacerating outrage towards police brutality.
Among the many massive ensemble, Jacob Guzman makes for a (momentarily) terrifying Chino (there’s a second of surprising bloodshed to rival Daniel Fish’s dispatching of Oklahoma‘s poor Jud), and each Amar Ramasar (as Shark chief Bernardo) and Dharon E. Jones (as Jets chief Riff) have the streetwise bravado down pat. As Doc, the hapless soda store proprietor baffled by the self-destructive volatility of youth, Daniel Oreskes is the very embodiment of middle-aged inconsequence.
Even with the stand-out efficiency by Powell (whose knee harm throughout previews necessitated a fortunately momentary absence), West Facet Story is a much more balanced effort than van Hove’s earlier Broadway manufacturing, the Bryan Cranston-dominated Community. The director brings his completely trendy lens (and the staff wanted to hold it) to what is perhaps the only biggest group effort in musical theater historical past. Robbins, who conceived it, and Laurents, Bernstein and Sondheim who gave it voice, created a Broadway masterpiece. Van Hove delivers it, emboldened, to the 21st Century.