Author: Luisa Perkins
•12:48 PM

I've mentioned before that one of the great perqs of Patrick's job is that we often get invited to the openings of Broadway shows. Last night was such an occasion: we saw the much-herald revival of West Side Story.

I had high hopes; Bernstein's brilliant score and Sondheim's genius lyrics are some of my favorite in all of the musical theater repertoire. I adore the tragic story (Arthur Laurents's retelling of Romeo and Juliet) and its gritty setting (mid-1950s Manhattan). Jerome Robbins's choreography is iconic, as are the rival gangs the Sharks and the Jets. I wanted to love everything about this production.

The show had some truly great moments. Laurents, who directed, took some inspired liberties with his 52-year-old book. He had most of the Puerto Rican characters' dialogue translated into Spanish; "I Feel Pretty" and "A Boy Like That" were also sung in Spanish. This worked beautifully (with the help of some fabulous body language), giving the Sharks and their women both dignity and irony; the characters are more fully human now.

Josefina Scaglione was so lovely and convincing as Maria that I found myself thinking, "Natalie who?" Karen Oliva was nothing short of smoking hot as Anita; she went from sardonic to sexy to tragic with incredible ease and grace. I wish I could sit and watch her fantastico "América" over and over again. All of the Sharks were delicious to watch--whether they were mamboing or rumbling--ai, caramba!

Would that the Jets had fared as well. Matt Cavanaugh's Tony was my most bitter Broadway disappointment in many a moon. I could have forgiven how mousily unattractive he was (though you know it's bad when Chino, Maria's intended husband, is miles more handsome than her star-crossed lover is).

I have no such mercy in me for his wobbly, nasal singing or his brick-like delivery. I had hoped that "Something's Coming" or "Maria" would make me weep; instead I cringed as Cavanaugh dog-paddled through each of Bernstein's treacherous intervals and modulations. Bernstein's music is horrendously difficult, but you never want performers to make it sound harder than it is. The last thing the audience should be thinking at the end of the show is "Maria, honey, you can do better," but there it is.

Almost all of Tony's gang buddies were also lacking in charisma. Only three of "los Américanos" came through: as the tomboy Anybodys, Tro Shaw may have been channeling Susan Oakes (who played the character in the 1961 movie), but she chanelled well. Curtis Holbrook brought a 21st-century hyperactive viciousness to his portrayal of Action; he transformed "Gee, Officer Krupke" from slapstick to harrowing social commentary. Finally, as Kiddo, Nicholas Barasch sang "Somewhere" so angelically that the tears I'd been saving for Tony welled up unbidden.

To sum up, large portions of the show were thrilling; unfortunately, that meant that the awkward and flat moments stood out in greater relief. This revival wasn't the triumph I had hoped for, but maybe I've just gotten too picky.

Speaking of which, after nearly 15 years of opening nights in London and New York, we are now so jaded that being invited to the cast party after the show is no longer a thrill; we opted to drive straight home afterwards instead. But that didn't stop us from reaping one of our richest crops of celebrity sightings in a long while. Among those present in the theater last night were Christie Brinkley, Kathleen Turner, Vanessa Williams, Taye Diggs, Spike Lee, and Keith Carradine; celebrity couples Phil Donohue & Marlo Thomas and Diane Sawyer & Mike Nichols; and Sondheim and Laurents themselves.

I'm a lucky, lucky girl, I mused as we drove in the dark up the Palisades Parkway on the way home. I fully realize what a luxury it is to attend such events on the arm of a handsome man who loves me. I'll try to get over my guilt at not being able to pronounce the evening an unqualified success.
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On 20/3/09 , Melanie J said...

Oh, how fantastic. Living close to LA gives us access to a lot of the Broadway tours and I've seen the big ones (Wicked, The Producers), etc. I went to NYC once, two years ago, and we got to see Spamalot which was some good entertaiment.

I'm finding more and more that I like attending the prodcutions of some of our high quality regional repertory theaters for my play fixes, but the musical productions...that's an LA must.

On 20/3/09 , Heidi Ashworth said...

I can see that I need to come and visit you! You know, on a week when you have tickets (plus an extra) to some Broadway show. Wow! When I listen to West Side Story, it feels so nostaglic and familiar, it makes me feel as if I wrote it in another life (one in which I wrote music). It just gets in my blood! Know every word by heart . . .

On 20/3/09 , Annette Lyon said...

Wondering what it would be like to be so jaded. I'd love to find out. :)

Now I have "America" running through my head.

On 20/3/09 , Elizabeth said...

I just heard a review of that show on the radio today. Whoever it was had mixed feelings about it, too. It sounds like it has some great moments.

On 20/3/09 , Jenna Consolo said...

Oh, darn. I wish it had been thoroughly perfect for you. But still, like you said, you are one lucky girl, and it sounds like it was still a magical night.

On 20/3/09 , SydneyMin said...

Great review! I felt like I was seeing it through your eyes. Wonderful opportunities for you :)

On 20/3/09 , Josi said...

Whow, what a great review. Very detailed. It's amazing how one story can be told in so many different ways. Fun report.

On 21/3/09 , Melessa said...

I would say...SO jealous, but I'm really not. That just sounds like a wonderful way to spend an evening out with your hubby. Someday I will not be gestating, nursing, or dealing with DH's 10 hour work shifts, and when that day comes I will take myself and my Broadway-obsessed kids to NYC and we will see a show. Until then, I love reading about your experiences. Even when some of them fall flat.

On 22/3/09 , Kimberly said...

Lucky indeed, my dear. And, there is some measure of satisfaction in exericising ones perspicacity, is there not? Even if a rather heightened level of taste spoils your enjoyment, you are in posession of intelligence enough to understand why.

And to express it so beautifully to us...

On 22/3/09 , Virtualsprite said...

I'm so jealous! What a fantastic perk!

I heard a review on this show, too, and I don't remember it being all that favorable. But I like your review so much better. It really brought it to life for me.

On 22/3/09 , swedemom said...

Thanks for the review. I had seen the advertisments and was wondering if I should try and get tickets for the show. Perhaps you could suggest a different show that might be worthwhile?

On 22/3/09 , Luisa Perkins said...

Tiffany, I think it is worth seeing, even though it is not perfect. That music is so fantastic to hear live. The parts that are good are truly outstanding.

P has access to excellent house seats, by the way. They are full price, but they are in the ideal location for seeing the show and very hard to get without a connection.

On 23/3/09 , charrette said...

Ditto every single word you wrote about Sondheim, Bernstein, etc. And I am SO JEALOUS! What, pray tell, does Patrick do for a living?

I also ditto the sentiment of becoming jaded by too many celebrity affairs. I used to design invitations for the major celebrity galas when we lived in Los Angeles (the coup de grace was the Golden Globe Awards) and after awhile we got so tired of donning formals and tuxes to schmooze with the movie stars. My husband started calling them "celebrity petting zoos."

On 23/3/09 , Elizabeth said...

'Celebrity Petting Zoos' is absolutely hilarious.

On 24/3/09 , Mary said...

Remember those grammar blogs you had started? I think you should restart those.
affect and effect

On 24/3/09 , Brillig said...

Okay, lady. I'm seriously wallowing in jealousy here. WHAT AN AMAZING LIFE YOU LEAD! I, um, have never even once been to Broadway. I've landed at JFK a few thousand times, but, alas, that's the extent of my New York adventures.

Also? Someone should be paying you for this critique. It's fantastic.

However, I'm vicariously disappointed by your Tony. Sigh. How very tragic! How could the director (or whoever cast the thing) let something so awful happen? I mean, it's TONY. Tony has to be PERFECT! He has to leave every woman (and, let's face it, half of the men) breathless from swooning. It sounds like maybe perfection wasn't achievable, so they went to the far opposite end of the spectrum. haha.

Okay, I truly loved reading this. I hope you'll write one every time you go out. Even for the music you hear sung in church. hahaha. I love reading Novey-Lu Reviews.

On 24/3/09 , Anonymous said...




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On 25/3/09 , Goofball said...

Hi Luisa,

wow that is a fabulous perk! I'm so jealous.

I'm sorry to hear that the show didn't entirely meet your expectations though.