Gammage Goers Review: West Side Story - BlabbermouthAZ

I was very excited to be selected to be one of Gammage Theatre’s “Gammage Goers” for the 2011-2012 season. In this program, they harness the power of theatre goers’ online networks to spread word of mouth about current productions. They gain not only the exponential reach of the Goers’ networks, but the added benefit of a review seen as more credible coming from a family member or friend. The shows I was selected to review this year are West Side Story, Green Day’s American Idiot, and La Cage Aux Folles.

One of the questions I asked the panel when I interviewed to be a Gammage Goer was, “What happens if I don’t like a show?” (hoping the question wouldn’t immediately eliminate me). They wisely responded that having an honest, negative review only adds credibility to the program. So, it’s a good thing they feel that way, because I didn’t love this cast of West Side Story. As much as I wanted to like Uof A grad Kyle Harris as Tony, I just didn’t. I had seen him in Hair a couple of years ago, and thought he was great. To me, his voice doesn’t fit this role and his broad portrayal was distracting. The rest of the cast was good, but nobody blew me away.

I did, however, in my immediate post-show video interview, want to focus on some of the positive as well. So, as you’ll hear in my interview, I believe that seeing a production of West Side Story is important context for understanding the groundwork that was laid for the Broadway musical to evolve.  Anymore, it seem like every show likes to tout that it “Redefines musical theatre.” West Side Story made that possible. Arthur Laurents, author of the musical’s book, said, “I thought maybe it would run for three months. I didn’t care. It was so not what a musical should be.”

Here’s my immediate reaction:

I should point out that my opinion of the cast was not shared by The Arizona Republic or my fellow Gammage Goers. For tickets and information, click here.

(Disclaimer: Tickets to the show for myself and my wife were complimentary in exchange for my participation in the Gammage Goers program. As I mentioned, they in no way influenced my response.)

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  • I saw this production last night and was not impressed. This was not the West Side story I grew up with. I found it very crude, and the numerous sexual gestures and jokes were unnecessary. Officer Krupke is probably one of my favorite songs in this show, it was horribly crude and almost embarrassing to sit through. I was just glad I decided not to take my kids to see this production. I also agree with your opinion on Tony, his voice was distracting and he looked like he was in pain as he was singing. I also thought that the dancing was sloppy. What a shame that such a classic American Musical was so poorly done. I would not recommend seeing this production.

  • I have just left the Sunday matinee performance of Westside Story deeply disappointed after Act I. The singing by the leads was substandard and recognizing Bernstein’s score is a challenge, we have local aspiring talent that far surpasses this touring company.
    I am a season ticket holder and find this a most discouraging start to what I anticipated as an enjoyable theater experience.Trying to fool the public so familiar with the music by theatrics and off key loudness did not work.

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