Plaza Theater brings ‘West Side Story’ to life
Snap to it and get your tickets to see “West Side Story,” the modern-day version of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” that features what seems like dozens of finger-snapping teen toughs taking over the Plaza Theatre at Dudley Hall.
Although the musical involves an on-stage cast of 32, it’s two unseen crew members who deserve a playground package-size of praise for this production: co-directors Tina (who also designed the costumes) and JaceSon Barrus, the husband and wife team who are Plaza Theatre Company co-founders along with another spouse duo, Milette and Aaron Siler.
“Nothing we have ever worked on can quite match the sheer greatness of ‘West Side Story,’ the Barrus’s write in the director’s notes of the playbill. “It is a towering achievement as it weaves a perfect blend of story, dance and song into an unforgettable piece of theatre. Perhaps the finest musical ever written.”
Perhaps, indeed. A musical can quickly disappoint if the singers can’t sing and the dancers can’t dance. That’s where this production rises to the heights regular PTC attendees expect because Bradley McKinney, who played Tony in the production I attended (double cast with Nathan Salter) can really sing. His mellow yet, powerful voice, is a pleasant surprise in his first solo, “Something’s Coming,” then really delights in “Maria,” one of the story’s most famous songs.
The duets, too, are a double bonus because Paulette Cocke as Maria in the production I attended (double cast with Mikayla “Mikki” Lewis) can match McKinney note for note. Their renditions of “One Hand, One Heart,” and the classic “Tonight” are show-stopping.
Unfortunately, the hostility, tension and prejudice that creates the conflict between the whites and Puerto Ricans of WSS are still prevalent today represented by urban poverty and racial discord from coast to coast, making the musical as relevant today as it was when introduced on Broadway in 1957 and in the movies in 1962.
As you probably know, WSS is about Tony, the young Jet who tragically falls in love with a sister of the leader of the Sharks.
Another standout is the sister, Anita, played by Megan A. Liles, who brings a spicy and sassy attitude to the role. Other really good backup vocals and dancing is provided by Emma Dalley (double cast with Alina Jennings), Autum McKee and Alex Owens as Sharks supporters.
Toby Q as Action, and his Jets pals, are really good in ‘’Gee, Officer Krupke.’’
Of the non-gang members in the show, Bud Gillett is good as Doc, the drug store owner who cares about the teens, and Christopher Combest is spot-on as Lt. Schrank, the tough-talking plain clothes detective.
Two other behind-the-scenes stars are music director/choreographer Tabitha Ibarra, assisted by Nolan Moralez (who also finds time to play Bernardo, a Sharks leader), and fight choreographer Luke Hunt. Both are like choreographed chaos.
Credit also goes to Wendy Rene Searcy for designing a set that is simple yet explanatory, G. Aaron Siler for keeping the sound levels just right and Cameron Barrus for the important shades of lighting.
From a book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, “West Side Story” plays at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Saturdays, through June 22 at the new Plaza Theatre Company at Dudley Hall, 305 S. Anglin St. in Cleburne.
Tickets — $25 for adults, $23 for age 65 and older and high school and college students, and $15 for youth age 13 and under — can be purchased online at www.plaza-theatre.com, or at the box office from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, or by phone at 817-202-0600.