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.