The Gateway Playhouse in Bellport, now known as the Performing Arts Center of Suffolk County at Gateway Playhouse, has remained a theatrical mainstay on Long Island for more than 60 years due to its astounding performances.
Their current production, West Side Story, is no exception. When the award-winning musical about rival street gangs the Jets and the Sharks debuted on Broadway in 1957, it was considered revolutionary.
Based on a concept by Jerome Robbins, with book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, the story of a romance doomed by cultural discord is a masterful blend of light and dark, hope and heartache, comedy and despair. At Gateway, this timeless story still resonates with the genius of the original production and the cast is exceptional.
Gateway newcomer Alexandra Zorn, who boasts a glorious singing voice, is a stand-out as Maria, a young woman transformed by first love. She is radiant in “I Feel Pretty,” and like her boyfriend Tony, you’ll be smitten.
Tony, played by Brent Michael DiRoma, is the perfect romantic counterpart for Maria. His entrancing soliloquies, “Something’s Coming” and “Maria” will set your heart soaring.
Manoly Farrell excels as Anita, girlfriend to Maria’s brother, Bernardo (Dennis Kenney), who exudes grace under pressure as the Sharks’ leader. A wise-cracking showstopper in the mocking “America,” Farrell’s duet with Zorn, “A Boy Like That/I Have A Love,” is heartrending.
The action builds to a crescendo with “Dance At the Gym,” when the Jets and Sharks alternate in asserting their superiority by usurping the dance floor. Theater-goers will be mesmerized by this musical number showcasing spectacular dancing and a whirlwind of colorful costumes. The dance brings Maria and Tony, the two star-crossed lovers, together, elevating them above the melee escalating around them.
From the tangle of fire escapes set against the backdrop of West Side’s seamy underbelly to Doc’s Drugstore, resonating with nostalgic signposts of the 1950s, Peter Dean Beck’s sets are breathtaking. Their beauty is amplified by lighting designer Marcia Madeira, who uses lighting to magnificent effect. The gorgeous costumes designed by Jose M. Rivera make for a glorious, eye-catching spectacle. Kudos to Andrew Austin and his eight-piece orchestra, whose music is the story's centerpiece.
Carlos Encinias deserves tremendous credit for direction and the restaged original choreography. Producer Paul Allan and Artistic Director Robin Joy Allan are to be commended for bringing this musical delight to the Gateway stage. West Side Story runs through May 28.