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Theater Review: Richter’s 32nd Season Continuing With A Classic Story Of Love And Conflict

Published: July 14, 2017

Elizabeth Young

DANBURY — A beautiful night on the hilltop at Richter Park is an ideal setting to watch one of musical theater’s most beloved shows: West Side Story. This classic, with book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, continues to enthrall audiences. The direction of Michael Limone adds a deeper dimension to the conflict and trauma that are the hallmarks of this piece, which continues for two additional weekends.

The Romeo and Juliet storyline is transported to a time and place of inner city gang warfare, racism, and forbidden love. As the well-known story goes, Maria (Juliet Dale), the virginal young sister of Bernardo (Sergio Mandujano), newly arrived from Puerto Rico, falls instantly for the local former gang member Tony (Stephen Moores).

There is one major problem: the Puerto Rican gang, the Sharks, led by Bernardo, are at war with the hometown gang, the Jets, with Riff (Brian Bremer) at the helm. Tony, a former Jet, is persuaded by Riff to participate in the rumble between the two opposing factions.

Swearing his undying love for Maria, Tony makes an effort to stop the fight. Things go horribly, irretrievably wrong, and young men end up dead.

Bernardo’s girlfriend, Anita (Lauren Nicole Sherwood), is heartbroken yet is determined to help Maria save Tony from an avenging Shark. There is pain all around and in true Shakespearean form, there are no winners.

There are several beautifully choreographed numbers in this production; kudos to choreographer Jimmy Locust. This was a huge undertaking given the size and various skill levels of the superb cast. Mr Locust’s work is magical and the cast executes it excellently.

The lighting, designed by Michael Limone and Mike Campbell, enhances this work beautifully.

Also, a big shout-out to the orchestra for its excellent accompaniment. The string section provides a rich and elegant sound. Hats off to Musical Director Zachary Kampler.

This large and enthusiastic cast thoroughly embraces this piece. Juliet Dale’s Maria and Stephen Moores’s Tony have a vocal chemistry that is at once tender and powerful. Sergio Mandujano is intense and convincing as Bernardo. Lauren Nicole Sherwood is a lively Anita as she loves and loses yet remains loyal to Maria. The music of West Side Story gives this much-talented cast a lot to work with and they do it justice.

Of particular note, Nathan Clift as Action, a Jet gang member, does a rollicking great job with his version of “Gee, Officer Krupke.”

Don’t pass up the chance to go “Somewhere” under the stars to “A Place for Us” to enjoy this stunning musical in which “A Boy Like That” falls for his “Maria.” Buy your tickets and go “Tonight.”

Performances continue Friday through Sunday, July 14-16, and Friday and Saturday, July 21-22, at 8:30 pm.

Tickets are $20 adults, $15 students and seniors, and $10 for ages 3-10.

For reservations and additional information call 203-748-MUSE (203-748-6873) or visit musicalsatrichter.org.

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