|Kevin Ryan Cole (Tony) and Nina Bethencourt (Maria)|
“West Side Story” is a young person’s show. Whatever Director Cathy McEachern did to obtain a stellar cast of young talent should be celebrated. The result is enough to put this musical theatre adaptation of Romeo and Juliet over the top in a marvelous, gripping performance.
Instead of the Capulets and Montagues we have the Jets, first American born Eastern Europeans, and the Sharks, recent immigrants from Puerto Rico in a turf war on the streets of New York City. The conflict is galvanized in the opening moments by Jet leader Riff (Michael Kanago) and Shark head-man Beranardo (Mitchel Morris) in a physical face-off.
Do not let Kanago’s previous credits as a comic actor fool you. This guy can be mean. Morris is a surprise. He holds his own opposing Kanago, yet this is his stage debut.
Nina Bethencourt is an example of perfect casting as Maria, the young Puerto Rican girl who falls tragically in love with Tony, a former Jet gang member. Bethencourt is the correct age (very early teens), can sing up a storm, and delights in her own performance. Just watch her facial expressions and fragile body movements in her early scenes where she meets Tony. Occasionally she upstages herself; otherwise, her performance is spellbinding. While active in juvenile theatre, this is her debut in as the lead in a major adult production.
Kevin Ryan Cole has the experience to carry the role of Tony to its fullest. He is totally at ease working with Bethencourt and moves exceptionally well on stage. His singing voice and projection smack of hours of training and hard work.
Sub plot characters are handled by veterans Glen Howard (Officer Krupke), Jenn Roman (Anita), and Scotty Schultz (Doc).
Both dancing and combat choreography by Rosemary DeMott is excellent and includes steps seen in Broadway versions. The chorus makes up any deficiencies in talent with effort and exuberance.
Music is handled by Dan Martin. Volume is correct with only a few moments where the woodwinds outshout the voices.
|Michael Kanago (Riff) and Mitchel Morris (Beranardo)|
There were only 4 empty chairs empty in the second Sunday matinee in the run of this show. I am willing to make a prediction: If you miss this show you will be kicking yourself when years later you see Nina Bethencourt on the screen or stage for big bucks when you could have seen her live for a mere $15 and her autograph at the Warehouse Theatre in Clermont.
Take my advice. Don’t miss her performance. Don’t miss this show!
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