I went to the opening performance of West Side Story at Elsinore High School tonight…what an awesome show. Man, those kids really gave it everything. Some of the dance scenes were a little painful to watch – I would guess that none of the boys have taken any dance – but Anita was fantastic. She was played by Carlee Blakemore, who happens to be 18, so I feel okay putting her name on the WWW, and she was really excellent. Great voice, great dancer, totally believable. She even had a smoky voice like Rita Moreno. Tony and Maria were great too, especially Maria’s voice – but she smiled through all the dramatic scenes, even when she slapped Chino, so that was weird.
The crowd favorite by far was Principal Jon Hurst as Doc. Who knew so many of Doc’s lines were made for a principal. “How are we going to teach kids today?” “How are these kids ever going to learn?” He was great, and the crowd loved him.
There was a weird moment when Tony and Maria “sleep together” – a.k.a. lay on the bed fully clothed while the lights dim and the stage crew wheels the horrendous two-story bridal shop/apt. set away. The whole crowd cracked up. Not a mature crowd…it made for a very funny scene.
There was also a LOT of kissing! Anita and Bernardo really went for it, full on french kissing with her leg wrapped around his thigh and his hand on her booty…is that appropriate? I guess, who cares? But it seemed kind of extreme to me. I wonder if the director knew that they were going to do that.
Anyway, I loved it. I loved the awkward dancing and the off-tempo singing and the shining moments of real showmanship – like Anita and Maria’s duet of I Have a Love.
Mostly, I loved that a new generation is performing this musical that I’ve loved my whole life, and let’s hope they’ll love it their whole lives and play it for their kids and it will continue on forever.
Hats off to you, Mr. Bernstein! And Chita Rivera – the best Anita ever.