Dallas Voice (Dallas, Tex.), Vol. 28, No. 21, Ed. 1 Friday, October 7, 2011

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Teenage wasteland
Hormonal youth meet fatal consequences in 'West Side Story,1 'Awakening'
ARNOLD WAYNE JONES I Life+Style Editor
jones@dailasvoice.com
There aren't many musicals that are about
things. Andrew Lloyd Webber, with his bom-
bastic shows concerning felines and toy trains,
may have lowered the bar, but the "serious"
musical has always been an uphill battle. Even a
show like Hairspray, which touches on racism, is
more concerned with a punchy '60s-pop sound
than social change.
Two musicals that break the mold are West
Side Story and Spring Awakening. There's
very little hope in either one. But the message of
teenagers crazed by hormones,
and the tragedy that results,
have made them classics, even
coming 50 years apart. Seldom
has the reality of adolescence
been more acutely wrought.
The new production of West-
Side, at the State Fair courtesy
of Dallas Summer Musicals,
was re-imagined by the show's
original writer, Arthur Laurents, with the addi-
tion of Spanish dialogue and lyrics (from Lin-
Manuel Miranda) for the Puerto Rican street
gang the Sharks, as well as a timely design: Al-
though a product of the '50s — especially evi-
dent in Leonard Bernstein's still-relevant jazz
score and dialogue resplendent with daddios
talk of hoodlums — this version could just as
easily take place today. The Jets, usually so easy
to mock for their balletic street fighting, are by-
and-large beefier here, more threatening. They
ON THE BOARDS
WEST SIDE STORY at Fair Park Music
Hall, 901 Fi rst Ave. Th roug h Oct 23.
DallasSummerMusicals.com.
SPRING AWAKENING at Addison
Theatre Centre, 15650 Addison Road.
Through Oct. 23.
v WaterTowerTheatre.org. J
may plie like Nureyev, but you sense they'd
beat the living crap out of you for making fun
©f 'em.
This West Side also has something sorely lack-
ing in almost every prior production: A Tony
with true sex appeal. You believe the spark be-
tween him (Ross Lekites) and Maria (Evy Ortiz,
whose soprano is astonishing) as they Romeo-
and-Juliet it on the bale... er, fire escape. Young
love onstage usually seems hokey; here, it feels
primal.
There's power in this doomed
romance, from the haunting,
bloody finales of both Act 1 and 2
to the near rape of Anita (Michelle
Aravena) that elevates it — not
just to the realm of tragedy, but to
the scope of a true American
opera.
At least, that's the sensibility
conveyed by this production, the
best yet in DSM's 2011 season. West Side Story
hasn't felt so fresh in ages, abounding with en-
ergy (although some tjf the dancers aren't in per-
fect step) and a new air of sexual ambiguity
(especially with tomboy Jet wannabe Anybodys
and some gang members that seem a little too
chummy). This has never been a feel-good musi-
cal, but its dark outlook feels earned this time.
We live in a state whose governor preaches
abstinence-only sex education while the teen
P.R. FLEX | Disenfranchised Puerto Ricans Anita (Michelle Aravena) and Bernardo (German Santiago)
burn the floor in a re-imagined revival of 'West Side Story.' (Photo courtesy Joan Marcus)
46 dallasvoice.com ■ 10.07.11

Nash, Tammye. Dallas Voice (Dallas, Tex.), Vol. 28, No. 21, Ed. 1 Friday, October 7, 2011. Dallas, Texas. UNT Digital Library. http://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth239188/. Accessed February 1, 2015.