The classic story of innocent young love doomed by hostile rivalries comes to life at the Houston Grand Opera’s production of West Side Story.
West Side Story is a relatable modern take on William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet that is a pop culture staple. The retelling began as the brainchild of choreographer-director Jerome Robbins in 1947. There is a popular 1961 movie by the same name, and Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner currently have a remake film in the works.
Our star-crossed lovers Maria (Andrea Carroll) and Tony (Norman Reinhardt) are connected with two rival New York City teenage street gangs: the Sharks and the Jets. Maria’s brother is the leader of the Sharks and Tony is one of their hated enemies. Maria is a starry-eyed new arrival from Puerto Rico who sees a world full of possibilities. Tony is a boy jaded by his city world of gangs. When boy meets girl, their “love at first sight” scene makes my eyes roll. They are too young to know the difference between infatuation and love, but that makes their early senseless doom all the more tragic.
The dancing puts the youthful energy of the characters on full display. The numbers are flawless in it’s choreography and execution, with each clique being perfectly in sync. However, the best part of the production is the music.
Anita (Gabrielle McClinton) and Rosalia (Zoie Reams) made the catchy, albeit cliche “America” song get stuck in my head.
Andrea Carroll nails Maria’s charming “I Feel Pretty.” (We have this song to thank for the new I Feel Pretty movie where Amy Schumer takes Maria’s sudden insanity to another level.)
The performance of the Jets’ humorous “Gee, Officer Krupke” song was a well-acted comedic episode in the performance.
The Houston Grand Opera is performing West Side Story in an unusual venue. They declared this season a triumph over adversity and are performing in the temporary HGO Resilience Theater at the George R. Brown Convention Center. Their home venue, the Wortham Theater Center, is right next to Buffalo Bayou downtown. It took on twelve feet of water during Hurricane Harvey and will not reopen until September 2018. It’s impressive what they were able to do with the makeshift performance space. I sat in the middle of the audience, but I pitied those sitting in the outer sections with a side-angle view of the stage.
There are four remaining dates of the Houston Grand Opera’s production of the West Side Story:
Tuesday, May 1 at 7:30 p.m.; Thursday, May 3 at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, May 4 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, May 6 at 2 p.m.
Regular tickets start at $25, but discounted tickets are available opera-goers under 25 first-time attendees.