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Nov 17, 2012

West Side Story: Opening Night

By Michal Jansen Miller

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“It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.” -Tyler Durden (Fight Club)

I don’t typically leave a Broadway show with wounds. Bloody. Speechless. The theatre is a tonic for me. An escape. A jolly holiday.The songs I thought I knew. Somewhere. The dance at the gym. Tony, Maria, Anita. The “snaps” of the Jets. The movie in my mind.The production of West Side Story that opened tonight at the Lexington Opera House packs a punch unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. It is brilliant. A revelation. It hurt so good.

In this world of GLEE and AMERICAN IDOLized Everything, it is refreshing to see a show that is so bold as to ask its audience to think. To care.

At the heart of any West Side Story, of course, are Tony and Maria. Addison Reid Cole and MaryJoanna Grisso are perfect in their innocence. I rather hoped they would have embraced and fled stage right after “One Hand, One Heart” and left us all to deal with what was to follow. But this is not a weekly television series with pop song mash-ups and text message numbers to vote for your favorites. Even they, the star-crossed lovers, are in it for blood. Bold.

Michelle Alves exhibits expected spice as Anita in “America”, but her Act II “A Boy Like That” will surely be her ticket to Broadway. It brings to mind Pamela Isaacs star-turn as Queen in 1997′s THE LIFE. And I almost don’t even want to mention what Bridget Riley (Anybodys) accomplishes with “Somewhere” without an all-caps SPOILER ALERT. She. Is. Everybody.

Even the curtain call of this production is brazen. Stoic. So many Broadway shows today have those catchy “sing-along” MammaMia/JerseyBoys finales. Not here.

Did I still leave with a song in my heart? Absolutely. And my heart in my throat.

It’s Fight Club: The Musical