West Side Story is stunning and entrancing and makes you want to dance — and cry.
In this well-known tragic love story that parallels with Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, two star-crossed lovers, Maria (Mikaela Bennett) and Tony (Corey Cott), find themselves torn because their loyalties lie with the people of two opposing gangs in New York City – the Jets and the Sharks – yet their sweet love-at-first-sight moment cannot be stopped. They make too-hasty plans for a future together despite those challenges and their differences.
Bennett and Cott, each in their Lyric debut at Saturday night’s opening, are a natural, believable couple by the end. Each supremely talented vocally on their own, coming together, they draw the audience in with their sweet voices. Beyond the powerful story line of this popular Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim play, the choreography and music in this Lyric premiere is simply amazing, telling the story even more powerfully than the vocals and moving it along quickly.
Though created in the 1950s, West Side Story also offers a valuable lesson for today. One gang, the Jets, hates the Sharks for being Puerto Rican, for being different. People are killing each other for the same reasons today, over race, religion or beliefs. Hate, no matter what kind, starts all the problems and never ends well as in this show with Maria’s brother, Bernardo (superbly talented Manuel Stark Santos), Tony’s BFF and Jets leader Riff (Brett Thiele) and even Tony himself are killed. Even at the end, the beautiful, sweet Maria announces, “I can kill too because now I have hate.”
This is another top-notch premiere by the Lyric that is a must-experience before its run ends June 2. The amazing cast will leave you either dancing or crying. No in between.
West Side Story
- Through June 2
- Lyric Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago
- Tickets start at $29 at lyricopera.org/wss or by calling (312) 827-5600