AISLE SAY San Francisco


Music by Leonard Bernstein
Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by Arthur Laurents
Directed by Amanda Folena
Presented by Broadway By the Bay
Fox Theatre
2215 Broadway St., Redwood City / (650) 579-5565

Reviewed by Judy Richter

The story of "Romeo and Juliet" finds its 20th century counterpart in "West Side Story," presented by Broadway By the Bay.

With music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by Arthur Laurents, Shakespeare's battling Capulets and Montagues in 16th-century Italy become the Sharks and Jets, street gangs in New York's Upper West Side in the mid-'50s.

In the BBB production, the star-crossed lovers are played by Nikita Burshteyn as Tony, a member of the white Jets, and Samantha Cardenas as Maria, part of the Puerto Rican Sharks. Both are noteworthy in songs like "Maria," "Tonight" and "One Hand, One Heart." As the two gangs vie for turf, Tony and Maria become its innocent victims.

They're well supported by Taylor Iman Jones as Maria's friend Anita and others in the 40-member cast, ably directed by Amanda Folena.

The 1957 Broadway smash was originally directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins. Nicole Helfer recreates some of that original choreography and adds some of her own with dynamic results. The outstanding orchestra is conducted by musical director Sean Kana.

Kelly James Tighe's set of scaffolding, with lighting by Joe D'Emilio, evokes the neighborhood's grittiness, as does the sound design by Jon Hayward. The '50s costumes are by Margaret Toomey.

This is Folena's final show after four years as the company's artistic director. She "will be pursuing a teaching opportunity," she says in the program. The company will celebrate its 50th anniversary on Oct. 4 at LV Mar restaurant in downtown Redwood City.

Although "West Side Story" is based on a 16-century story updated to the '50s, it's still timely today as gangs, sects and nations fight over territory while innocent people pay the price.

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