It's the old Romeo and Juliet plot as Tony (Robert Lopez), originally the head of the Jets gang, and Maria ((Kristina Stasi), sister of Bernardo, head of the Puerto Rican Sharks, fall madly in love at first sight in a crowded dance at the West Side gymnasium. Their versatile voices easily handle the challenging songs that veer to the operatic, but the pleasant surprise is their acting as they begin giddily to recognize their love and plan to find a "new way of living" and "a way of forgiving." The final tragedy spurs Maria to a hysterical outburst that doesn't leave a dry eye in the house.
Some modern productions have the Puerto Ricans speaking and singing in Spanish but thankfully Tri-Valley Rep stuck to the original idea of using heavily accented English, the better to appreciate the lyrics of Stephen Sondheim that are incredibly clever even if they might not realistically issue from the mouths of hoodlums and English-second-language speakers. Anita (Katie Pogue), Bernardo's (Andrew Taula) girlfriend and Maria's confidante, steals the show whenever she is onstage with her spicy sexiness.
Once the sadness of the ending subsides, you'll be left humming "When you're a Jet," "Dance at the Gym," "Maria," "America," Cool," "I Feel Pretty," and others. Don't be surprised if you snap your fingers on the way to the car.
Pretty, witty and bright
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