Arts & Theater

Theater review: Breathtaking ‘West Side Story’ at Music Circus

Music Circus stages “West Side Story” with (from left) Christopher B. Nachtrab, Nibbles, Lauren Boyd Thay Floyd, Naomi Morgan, and German Alexander.
Music Circus stages “West Side Story” with (from left) Christopher B. Nachtrab, Nibbles, Lauren Boyd Thay Floyd, Naomi Morgan, and German Alexander.

The great American musical will never have a finer representative than the current elegant Music Circus production of “West Side Story.”

The audacious combinations of art and entertainment that made the play’s 1957 Broadway debut so sensational are still completely breathtaking here in director Bob Richard’s stunning new version.

Opening with a poetic ballet prologue, which foretells the tragic “Romeo and Juliet”-based story, the musical has an overwhelming richness in elements from the dancers’ grace and athleticism to the rich complexity of composer Leonard Bernstein’s score.

With a template created by Jerome Robbins’ original direction and choreography, the book by Arthur Laurents, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and Bernstein’s memorable music, the story of a race-based gang turf war feels all too familiar. Director Richard emphasizes the script’s ethnic divide – working-class WASPs threatened by newly immigrated Puerto Ricans – while Diane Laurenson’s vivid choreography also separates and defines the two sides.

Led by Carolann M. Sanita’s soaring soprano as Maria and Justin Matthew Sargent’s charismatic Tony, the singing is also first-rate from the talented cast, with fine readings of “Somewhere,” “Tonight,” “Maria” and “One Hand, One Heart.”

Standout supporting performers include German Alexander’s smoldering Bernardo, the dynamic Desireé Davar as his girlfriend, Anita, Maria Briggs as the androgynous Anybodys and Shane Rhoades as Riff. The many highlights include “Dance at the Gym,” “The Rumble” and “Gee, Officer Krupke.”

Mark Koss designed the lush costumes, and musical director Craig Barna beautifully rendered the memorable score. The joyous beauty of the production creates a striking counterpart to the heartbreaking tragedy it tells.

Marcus Crowder: 916-321-1120, @marcuscrowder

West Side Story

What: Music Circus production with Carolann M. Sanita and Justin Matthew Sargent, directed by Bob Richard

When: 7:30 p.m. daily through Sunday; 2 p.m. Thursday, Saturday and Sunday

Where: Wells Fargo Pavilion,1419 H St., Sacramento

Cost: $40-$83

Information: 916-557-1999; SacramentoMusicCircus.com; tickets.com

Time: Two hours and 30 minutes, including one intermission.

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