by Melissa Giordano
Being there are many productions of the iconic musical West Side Story running at any one time, it is imperative that the cast be absolutely brilliant. Indeed, the company at The Noel S. Ruiz Theatre at CM Performing Arts Center does not disappoint under the outstanding direction of Martin Aviles, who has been in several productions of West Side Story himself. This dazzling production, playing through August 28th at the Oakdale venue, will leave you extremely impressed with the incredible talent Long Island has to offer.
As we know, this tale is a modern take - well, 1950's modern take - on Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet. Tony, an American, superbly portrayed by Joey Mele, falls for Maria, who is of Puerto Rican decent, beautifully portrayed by Katie Ferretti. The reason there is a problem is that Tony is part of the Jets street gang while Maria is the sister of Bernardo who is the leader of the Sharks street gang. Tony and Maria see each other at a school dance in New York City and their relationship takes off.
Ms. Ferretti is a wonderful Maria. Her voice soars and her performance is a true roller coaster of emotions; this from light and airy singing "I Feel Pretty" to holding a gun in a threating fashion and yelling frantically. She and Mr. Mele make a great team. A favorite of the sold out audience is their rendition of "Tonight" and an exquisite incarnation of "One Hand, One Heart". Additional highlights include a strong performance from Rafael Rivas as Bernardo, a sassy Nicole Fragala as Anita (Bernardo's girlfriend), and an intense Riff, the leader of the Jets, from Bobby Peterson.
The entire company is truly extraordinary as is Mr. Aviles' creative team.
The cast really attacks the chorography masterfully directed by M.E. Junge. In particular, the girls' performance of "America" is divine and the guys' "Gee, Officer Krupke" is hilarious. Furthermore, Michael Mehmet's excellent set is enhanced cleverly by Allison Weinberger's lighting and Ronald Green III's stunning costumes. And CMPAC staple Matt Surico has an incredible 25-plus piece orchestra that effortlessly goes through the Leonard Bernstein/Stephen Sondheim score.
And so, West Side Story is certainly another hit for The Noel S. Ruiz Theatre at CM Performing Arts Center. This legendary piece, again, may be done frequently, but this incarnation is certainly one not to be missed.
West Side Story is presented by The Noel S. Ruiz Theatre at CM Performing Arts Center through August 28. For more information and to purchase tickets, please call 631-218-2810 or visit www.CMPAC.com.
Book by Arthur Laurents, Music by Leonard Bernstein, Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, Directed by Martin Aviles, Musical Direction by Matthew Surico, Choreography by M.E. Junge, Stage Management by Karen Tese, Set Design by Michael Mehmet, Sound Design by Nicolette Carosi, Lighting Design by Allison Weinberger, Costume Design by Ronald Green III.
Starring Joey Mele, Bobby Peterson, Ryan Cavanagh, Chris Loeschner, David Tucciarone, Joe Bebry, Brian Frank, Sean Burbige, Brendan Bitler, Ashley Nicastro, Erin Damers, Gabrielle Farah, Shannon Cunningham, Jackie Hughes, Katie Ferretti, Rafael Rivas, Nicole Fragala, Edward Martinez, Matt Kadam, Luke Rosario, Alex Esquivel, Ever Chavez, Alfonso Lora, Marielle Greguski, Debbie Hecht, Mackenzie Gallo, Gina Morgigno, Nicole Bianco, John Steele, Barry Johnson, Andrew Murano, and Brendan Noble.