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St. Andrew’s Episcopal School West Side Story

By • Mar 6th, 2012 • Category: Cappies

Shakespeare’s timeless tale of star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet, is perhaps his most famous work. People everywhere are drawn to this story of love against all odds. Due to this universal fascination, the play has spawned a number of film, stage, and literature interpretations. One of the most well-known of these is West Side Story, which contains its own doomed love affair that has become a classic in its own right. St. Andrew’s Episcopal School hooked the audience with its honest production of this beautiful story.

West Side Story, with music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephan Sondheim, first opened on Broadway in 1957 to mostly positive critical reception. The musical tells the story of the Jets and the Sharks, two culturally divided teenage street gangs at constant odds with one another. When Tony, a white boy from the Jets, meets and falls in love with Maria, the Puerto Rican sister of the Sharks’ leader, it sets in motion a catastrophic course of events that can only end in tragedy.

The ensemble as a whole did an outstanding job of keeping the energy levels high during group dance numbers despite having some difficulties with synchronization of movement. However, the utterly joyful chaos created by the Jet males during “Gee, Officer Krupke” was pure boisterous fun. The haphazard movements and the hilarious interactions perfectly illustrated the close bond of the gang members.

The leads did a fine job of vigorously diving into their daunting roles. Tony, the confident former Jet leader, was played with enthusiastic commitment by Ben Coleman. He guided the show with determination and devoted mastery of his lines. Opposite him as Maria, Kiah Simms lent her high angelic tones to the part, her exquisite voice capturing each note in its intense hold.

However, for all the leads’ virtues, it was the supporting cast that carried the show. Anita (Abigail Stephenson) pulled off the steamy and passionate moods of her role with striking assurance. Her triple threat of talented acting, dancing, and singing was refreshing in a show that contained some who struggled in one of these areas. Her chemistry with Maria was unmistakably genuine and created some amusing and heartwarming scenes. Riff (David Anders) was also quite talented, his intrepid but caring demeanor creating some touching moments among the Jets. His second in command, Action (Chris Naughton), was charming in his role, being an appropriate ray of light in an otherwise mournful play.

The tech was impressive, although a few mistakes were noticeable. The stage crew did an admirable job of changing the remarkable amount of set pieces in a reasonable amount of time for each scene. The orchestra was by far the best technical element of the show. The difficult score was played through with no mistakes, and they effortlessly kept pace with the actors.

West Side Story shows not only racism and discrimination at its zenith, but it also demonstrates love and acceptance; two things that modern society sometimes needs to be reminded of. Even in today’s ever-changing world, the ideas of overcoming adversity and seeing past the color of one’s skin that are presented clearly in the fatal romance of Tony and Maria resonate through time. St. Andrew’s Episcopal School demonstrated these messages with zeal in their thoughtful performance of West Side Story.

by Emma Paquette of McLean High School

Photo Gallery

Maria (Kiah Simms)  and Anita Abby Stephenson in the bridal shop Robert Schepis as Bernardo, Billy Weber as Diesel and David Anders as Riff in the War Council Scene
Maria (Kiah Simms) and Anita Abby Stephenson in the bridal shop
Robert Schepis as Bernardo, Billy Weber as Diesel and David Anders as Riff in the War Council Scene
Tony (Ben Coleman) and Maria (Kiah Simms) singing 'One Hand/One Heart' Abigail Stephenson as Anita in 'Tonight'
Tony (Ben Coleman) and Maria (Kiah Simms) singing ‘One Hand/One Heart’
Abigail Stephenson as Anita in ‘Tonight’
Matt Mitterhoff, Chris Naughton, Billy Weber, Background - Cameron Mitchell, Alex Palmer, Connor Orr, Sam Wolf and Michael McMillen
Matt Mitterhoff, Chris Naughton, Billy Weber, Background – Cameron Mitchell, Alex Palmer, Connor Orr, Sam Wolf and Michael McMillen

Photos by Bruce Weber

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