Victoria’s Diary: The legend lives on

Photo by Jan Versweyveld

One of the fondest memories of my childhood was the play “West Side Story.” Lucky us — it’s been reimagined and revitalized and superbly produced at the Broadway Theatre surrounded by the bright lights of Times Square

The show first graced the stage in 1957 and its Romeo and Juliet theme is as compelling today as  it was when it was created by geniuses Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Laurents, Stephen Sondheim and Jerome Robbins

Most of my favorite songs are still in the show, but the revival eliminated my favorite, the show-stopping song “I Feel Pretty.”

The brilliant Belgian director Ivo van Hove leads the energized revival and has given us something unique. The show engaged all my senses as I felt the enormous amount of excitement, energy and passion of the performers.

The stage has a massive video screen backdrop that brings the street scenes to life. The stage is bare when the lights go up and I was introduced to the Sharks and Jets by seeing their tattooed heads on the video screen that stretches the entire width and height of the stage. 

Photo by Jan Versweyveld

I felt each menacing face and their power, energy and pain as if they were standing next to me. 

The young and talented cast brought their anger and frustration of having to grow up on a battlefield of the Upper West Side with the Puerto Rican kids fighting for turf with the multiethnic American-born kids.

When Maria (Shereen Pimentel) and Tony (Isaac Powell) first meet, I felt magic in the air. Pimentel, a Juilliard graduate and newcomer to a starring role, ignites the audience with her magnificent, soaring soprano voice. When Maria is joined on stage by Tony, time seems to stand still and I cried as they sang their love song “Somewhere.”

Isaac Powell (Tony) and Shereen Pimentel (Maria) brought magic to the stage. (Photo by Julieta Cervantes)

But ringing in my head, days after seeing the play, is Tony’s rendition of “Maria,” a show-stopping number that mesmerizes the audience, and I was overwhelmed by his singing and love he felt for her.

The pulsating choreography was new and brilliantly energetic, reimagined from legendary Jerome Robbins’ style by Anne Teresa De Keesmaeker. She has the dancers performing athletically brutal moves and fighting scenes set to the tone of the Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s music and lyrics.

The powerful choreography was reimagined by Anne Teresa De Keesmaeker. (Photo by Jan Versweyveld)

I was completely enthralled by the massive video screens that recreated the streets and hangouts, dramatically fooling my eyes. 

Luke Hall’s videos with the actors appearing to be in and out of the videos was brilliant. 

The cast sizzled and made me feel once again the magic of “West Side Story,” my favorite musical now reimagined. I loved every minute of the hour and 45 minute production.  — I wished it was longer. I’m greedy! The legend lives on!

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