NY Theatre Guide Review: ‘West Side Story’ at John W. Engeman Theater

Theatre Review: ‘West Side Story’ at John W. Engeman Theater

Samantha Williams & Zach Trimmer. Photo by Michael Decristofaro.

Even if you have never seen West Side Story performed, you probably know something about it.  Classic shows have a way of infiltrating various other aspects of life, so much so in some cases, that without ever having seen a particular show you could even be referencing it unawares.  Whether it be a line, a quip, a great joke or a song, the classics are swirling all around us every day influencing even those who have yet to learn to appreciate them.  West Side Story is certainly no exception.  For anyone who has ever found themselves humming a strain of Bernstein’s bewitching music, or singing Sondheim’s memorable lyrics, they know this to be true.  It could be hearing “I Feel Pretty” playing in your mind as you look in the mirror, or the lyrics “…everything free in America, for a small fee in America”, running through your head at a particularly dissatisfying moment.  No matter your previous experience, be it great or small, familiar or new, the Engeman Theater’s wonderful production of West Side Story will send you home humming and definitely knowing why.

The entire cast of this performance is fabulous.

With a book by Arthur Laurents, and directed here by Igor Goldin, West Side Story may best be described as a 1957’s Romeo and Juliet.  The Upper West Side of Manhattan is in the middle of a turf war between two rival gangs: The Sharks, comprised of Puerto Rican immigrants, and The Jets, consisting of Polish-Americans.  When Maria, the sister of Lead Shark Bernardo, and Tony, the founder of the Jets meet and fall in love, the hate and prejudices of the opposing sides lead to inevitable heartbreak, but hopefully understanding for the future.  Along the way are fabulous songs, and energetic dance sequences, which will transport you back to a different time with a universal message.

The entire cast of this performance is fabulous.  Zach Trimmer plays Tony with a natural ease that is a pleasure to watch.  His fantastic voice harmonized beautifully with the crystal clear soprano of Samantha Williams as Maria.  Her charming portrayal highlights Maria’s youth, while the chemistry between she and Trimmer bring the romance to life.  Nikko Kimzin is a convincing Bernardo with wonderful dance skills, while Karli Dinardo as his fiery girlfriend Anita brings great attitude and believable emotion to her character.  Lead Jet Riff is played by Sam Wolf, whose triple-threat skill set proves him worthy of the role.  Leer Leahy is a perfect Doc, along with the talents of Mark T. Cahill as Shrank/Gladhand, and Rick Malone as Officer Krupke.  The large ensemble performs superbly.

Bolstering the performance is the terrific costuming by Tristan Raines, and the fun and enthusiastic choreography by Jeffry Denman.  Brilliant sound design by Laura Shubert enables the existence of both the quiet and lively moments, with the lyrics and music being equally discernible without one overpowering the other.  Completing the magic is the beautifully performed score by Music Director James Olmstead and the entire Band.  While not the happiest of stories it’s true, this classic is beloved by multiple generations.  Regardless of your familiarity with West Side Story, this production is worth seeing.

Running Time: Approximately 2 ½ hours including one 15 minute intermission.

Advisory: Sexual references and violence.

West Side Story is playing at the John W. Engeman Theater through November 8, 2015.  The theater is located at 250 Main St., Northport NY.  For tickets call the box office at (631) 261-2900 or click here.

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