"West Side Story" is a difficult and sophisticated musical. It's a comic tragedy with elaborate dance sequences and a challenging musical score requiring vocalists to span three tones. Last month, it was updated and revived on Broadway. But forget a trip to the Great White Way; the classic version of "West Side Story" will be performed at Pagosa Springs High School this weekend.
Forty-five student performers and dozens of community volunteers will bring the play to life on stage at the high school auditorium. That's nearly 10 percent of the student population. When I was in high school, you couldn't get a jock near the stage, so it was refreshing to see such a broad range of students dancing and singing in this production.
Amy Harbison as Maria does a lovely rendition of "Tonight," struggling only slightly on the highest notes. But her beautiful voice is well suited to this musical. Sarah York is delightful as Anita and brings a spark to the stage. Keturah Class Erickson as Rosalie sings "Somewhere," and in spite of microphone challenges, her capable vocals delight.
Tyler Sharp tackles the role of Tony just as he would take down an opponent on the wrestling mat. Robert Neel exercises his vocal chops as Riff, and Paul Hoffman hits a home run as Bernardo. Jeff Reardon as Action provides the most electric and physical performance of the cast.
A full orchestra fills the gap between stage and front-row seating, and sets are vibrant, colorful and simple, as are the costumes.
The story of rival gangs and violence is a simple retelling of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet." It was considered dark for a musical when originally produced on Broadway in 1957, and the score was considered depressing and difficult.
Most are probably familiar with the 1961 film staring Natalie Wood as Maria with Rita Moreno as Anita.
The stage production features racial slurs and negative connotations about Puerto Rico that were removed from the film. The Pagosa production maintains the offensive and racial commentary, which may make some uncomfortable.
The story is a timeless favorite, and the score by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim features heartfelt and inspiring lyrics.
Pagosa Springs High School manages to pull off the choreography and dance numbers and does an admirable job with challenging material.
email@example.comLeanne Goebel is a freelance writer specializing in the arts.