West Side StoryOpened March 19th 2009 The Pace Theater, NYC Director: Arthur Laurents Cast: Matt Cavenaugh, Josefina Scagliane, Karen Olivo, Cody Green, George Akram
Arthur Laurents comes back to Broadway with a refreshed production of his “West Side Story.” The production incorporates some major changes to the 50’s original, including songs and scenes in Spanish and an edgier feel to the overall story. Newcomer Josefina Scaglione from Buenos Aires, Argentina, shines in her Broadway debut as the love sick “Maria.” Matt Cavenaugh (“A Catered Affair,” “Grey Gardens”) plays “Tony” with lots of charm and impressive pipes. Karen Olivo (“In The Heights”) steals the stage as “Anita” and provides some needed sex appeal. The rest of the cast are a bit forgettable, with the exception of George Akram as “Bernardo,” Maria’s brother and leader of the Puerto Rican gang the “Sharks.”
The production has some impressive scenes, such as the school dance “Mambo!” sequence. But beware, dads, this is a musical of the classical variety, with long, sappy duets and men in “gangs” doing pirouettes during street fights. If you get squeamish to these types of displays, make sure you stock up on your Sportscenter beforehand. Secure in your testosterone, you will be able to enjoy the great scores and colorful imagery.
While some of the lyrical conversions to Spanish work well (such as Maria’s “I Feel Pretty,” re-written by Lin Manuel Miranda of “In the Heights”), the new West Side is not without its controversy on both sides of the audience spectrum. There are some scenes amongst the Puerto Rican characters that are entirely in Spanish, including one scene where some important information is delivered. I overheard an audience member say she was upset that she couldn’t understand. I think a more “Span-glish” version would have been appropriate, using Spanish for emphasis and color rather than long deliveries of dialogue. The effort by Laurents to bridge West Side audiences and attract more Spanish-speaking (AKA Hispanic) audiences is noble and appreciated, although a bit incomplete, as some characters deliver their Spanish lines with glaring American accents obvious to those familiar with the language and customs of the people they represent. Imagine, for comparison, if the Jets’ “Nu-Yorka” dialogue had a heavy Jamaican accent or Texan drawl. In a time where speech coaches can make the Aussie Hugh Jackman sound more American than apple pie, it seems like a huge oversight in creating authenticity. Only Akram comes close to meeting the challenge, as even Scaglione’s native Argentine accent comes through her very beautiful voice.
Overall though, the show is very entertaining to those who like musicals and who appreciate the historical significance of this American canon. If you need motivation, consider that it would make for a great night out with your +1, perhaps as part of a major “brownie point” campaign in anticipation of your next golf outing or guy’s night out event.
Your Daddy Time: Wasted or Worth it? Worth It! 3/5 Stars
The Rating System is for dads who need to know one thing- Is this movie WORTH IT to:
* Pack up the kids, bags, etc and trek to the theater – or
* Find a babysitter so Dad can have a date night – or
* Cash in brownie points with the Mrs. so he can go with his buddies
If it doesn’t fit these simple criteria, the movie gets the WASTED rating, which means – don’t waste the precious time you have, wait for video/cable when you can squeeze it between chores, work and sleep.
Miguel Guadalupe is a Director at Gartner Inc, a technology research company. Miguel (he’s the one in the middle) grew up in New York City and currently resides in New Jersey. A graduate of Wesleyan University, he currently volunteers for various alumni and community organizations, and is the proud father of a two beautiful girls.