Monday, March 19, 2012


So you’re heading to Boston because that’s where the flashy shows are, right? Not always. Sometimes a little company like Turtle Lane gets it together to produce a dazzling production of a classic like WEST SIDE STORY (playing in Newton through April 1st).

Think WEST SIDE STORY is dated? Think again. The Arthur Laurents/Bernstein/Sondheim masterpiece confronts gang violence head on. (Granted police had only a million gang bangers to deal with in the 1950s). WSS also tackles immigrant issues (NYC in the ‘50s was home to more Puerto Ricans than San Juan). A Polish-American member of the Jets accuses the Puerto Ricans of taking away jobs from “real” Americans: “The PRs are the reason my old man’s gone bust,” he asserts. And Laurents et al put gun violence on trial with Maria’s indictment of our American culture of hate. (Turtle Lane director Julia Fiske hits that point home with a clever “spotlight” message for the final moment of the musical.)

Even more compelling reasons to see the vibrant, high energy production at Turtle Lane Playhouse are the leads. Both Matt Torrance (Tony) and Aliana Fragoso (Maria) starred in critically acclaimed productions last season: Torrance in Metro’s BATBOY and Fragoso in F.U.D.G.E.’s SPRING AWAKENING. It’s a thrill to see talented up and comers and it’s rare to feel that chemistry between Tony and Maria. Talk about charisma! Ianthe Marini, too, electrifies the stage as Anita. Music director Daniel Rodriguez gets stellar singing from the entire cast and lifts the exquisite score to the stratosphere.

Did I mention the stunning choreography? Rachel Bertone captures the high flying, turf grabbing exuberance of Jerome Robbins’ original “gang” choreography then takes your breath away with the fantasy (Somewhere) ballet featuring the lovely Johanna Recko and the gorgeous vocals of Allsun O’Malley. Do not miss out!