Make us your home page
Instagram

Perfectly chosen cast delivers stunning production of 'West Side Story' at Show Palace

Show Palace Dinner Theatre’s production of West Side Story features a perfectly chosen cast, deft direction and good music.

The Light Box

Show Palace Dinner Theatre’s production of West Side Story features a perfectly chosen cast, deft direction and good music.

Here is one thing you need to know about the musical West Side Story, playing through Feb. 14 at Show Palace Dinner Theatre: If you intend to go see it, buy your ticket soon. This production is so beautiful, so moving, so incredibly well executed that once word gets out, there won't be a ticket left to buy.

West Side Story starts with some impressive advantages — Leonard Bernstein's music, Stephen Sondheim's lyrics and Arthur Laurents' book. Add Jerome Robbins' ground-breaking choreography — which the Show Palace uses in this productions, thanks to director Jill Godfrey's connections to a former Robbins assistant — and, of course, a story inspired by William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.

But even all that doesn't guarantee a successful show. It also takes a perfectly chosen cast of singers and dancers; deft direction; good music (Phyllis Gessler) and sound (Gerald Michaels), especially if it's recorded; smooth scene (Tim Dow) and set (Todd Everest) changes; fine lighting (Godfrey), and costumes (Pat Werner). And this show has all that in spades.

The show itself is about racial prejudice, anti-immigrant hatred and, ultimately, the redemptive power of love.

Show Palace newcomers (but certainly not new to the professional stage ) Matthew Frusher and Jillian Rossi are simply stunning as star-crossed lovers Tony and Maria, their voices well suited to this operatic musical. Their music pedigrees are from New York's American Musical and Dramatic Academy (him) and the Boston Conservatory (her), schools with high admission standards and skilled training. True, Frusher got off to a slow start on opening night (who wouldn't, after 11 straight days of almost nonstop rehearsal), but by the end of Act 1, he hit his stride and showed what he can do.

And if their duets (Tonight; One Hand, One Heart) and Rossi's I Have a Love don't tear out your heart, then you don't have a heart.

Then there's the dancing — muscular, athletic, acrobatic, balletic by turns — done with energy and enthusiasm by the 22 dancer/singers, who truly burn up the floor. This is a classy show, done with breathtaking class.

Watch for Austin Price as Riff, leader of the self-proclaimed "American" gang, the Jets. He doesn't have the stereotypical dancer's slender physique, but he explodes with energy, and he nails Riff's bluster and bravado right down to the last sneer. Another Show Palace newcomer, Jake Rura, is magic as Maria's brother, Bernardo, leader of the Puerto Rican gang, the Sharks, and boyfriend to Maria's best friend, Anita, played with foot-stomping fire and passion by Heather Baird.

The Jets — Action (Matty Colonna), Diesel (Richie MacLeod), A-rab (Vince Orabona), Baby John (Steve Jones) and Snowboy (Jason De Bello) — get their chance to shine in the much-needed comic relief number, Gee, Officer Krupke, a spoof of bleeding-heart social workers' excuses for delinquent behavior.

Ralph Prentice Daniel is spot on as the slimy Lt. Schrank. When the Jets shout at the Sharks, "Go back where you came from," and Lt. Schrank tells the Jets his disdain for those "spics" and says, "I wanna help you get rid of 'em," you might think you had stumbled into a certain current politician's big rally instead of a sane theater auditorium. Yes, this 1957 musical is as timely today as it was back then. And as disturbing.

As Doc (Pete Clapsis), owner of the "neutral ground" drugstore where both Jets and Sharks gather, shouts in agony at the tragedy unfolding before him: "When is it going to stop?"

>>if you go

Timely show

with an edge

West Side Story, matinees and evenings through Feb. 14 at the Show Palace Dinner Theatre, 16128 U.S. 19, Hudson. Dinner and show, $49.50; show only, $38.45, plus tax and tip. Children's and group tickets available. Call (727) 863-7949 or online at showpalace.net.

Perfectly chosen cast delivers stunning production of 'West Side Story' at Show Palace 01/11/16 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 13, 2016 7:11pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Glen Campbell's wife Kim discusses challenges, guilt caregivers of Alzheimer's patients, others face

    Life Times

    If there's one thing Kim Campbell would change about caregiving for Alzheimer's patients, it's the attitude so many of us have toward transferring a loved one from home to a long-term care facility. According to Campbell, it's often the most kind, loving decision you can make. It's not a sign of failure, but one of …

    Kim Campbell, wife of country music legend Glen Campbell, is acknowledged by those attending the free event where she shared the story of her personal journey with Alzheimer???‚??„?s disease and the struggles she faced caring for her husband on Friday (5/26/17) at the Suncoast Hospice's Empath Health Service Center in Clearwater. Empath Choices for Care, a member of Empath Health, and Arden Courts Memory Care hosted the free event where Kim shared her story to help others understand the early stages, how the disease changes lives, the challenges families face and the role of caregiver.
  2. What happened when I took my dad to a Pitbull concert

    Music & Concerts

    TAMPA — "So, you know how you like Pitbull?" I asked my dad. "We can see him."

    Selfie of Divya Kumar and Anand Kumar at Pitbull/Enrique Iglesias concert.
  3. Tampa City Council votes to accept travel invitation from Cuban ambassador

    Blogs

    The invitation came to Tampa City Council chairwoman Yvonne Yolie Capin in a June 9 letter from Cuban ambassador to the United States José Ramón Cabañas Rodriguez.

    The Tampa City Council voted 6-0, with Frank Reddick out of the room, to respond to a travel invitation from Cuban ambassador to the United States José Ramón Cabañas Rodriguez.
  4. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for June 25

    Events

    St. Pete Pride Festival: The daytime festival covers Central Avenue's Grand Central District with more than 350 vendors, multiple stages, live music, art and food. 9 a.m., Grand Central District, 2429 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. Free. (727) 342-0084.

    Kristen Whalen poses for a photo before the start of the St. Pete Pride Parade in St. Petersburg last year. It's that time of year again, so check with us for your planning purposes. [LUIS SANTANA  |   Times (2016)]
  5. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for June 24

    Events

    St. Pete Pride Block Party and Night Parade: St. Pete Pride's popular parade moves to downtown St. Petersburg's scenic waterfront. The block party brings DJs, food and drinks starting at 2 p.m. The parade steps off at Fifth Ave NE and Bayshore at 7 p.m. with fireworks at 9:45 p.m. 2 p.m., North Straub Park, Fifth …

    Thousands line the streets of Central Ave. during the St. Pete Pride Parade in St. Petersburg.  [Saturday, June 25, 2016] [Photo Luis Santana | Times]