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‘West Side Story’ makes gang wars fun

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By Sandra Diaz

An enraged Bernardo pries his sister, Maria, from the hands of Tony (Khai Le)

By Sandra Diaz

The only reason most students will show up to a play is for class credit.

I get it. I understand.

Most students think that theater is boring. They probably have never been to a Performance Riverside production.

With thoughts of ‘let’s just get this boring thing done with already,’ students will pick a production that is conveniently on campus. These students already have a leg up on others because they are willing to get the job done.

While there will always be students who just show up to get credit, there are a good amount that show up and end up having a good theater experience.

This could perfectly describe what it was like seeing West Side Story played at Landis Performing Arts Center on September 15 at 2pm, entering into a different world full of tragic beauty and striking violence.

For Regina Williams, a student at Riverside City College, theater has become an enjoyable past time. Originally Williams went to a production at Performance Riverside two years ago for her Music Appreciation class.

“I started coming back just for my entertainment because I liked it” said Williams.

The play ran September 14-23 with showings at 2pm and 8pm in the Landis Performing Arts Center.

The play centers on Tony and Maria, the Americanized versions of Romeo and Juliet, as star crossed lovers from rival gangs. The couple, played by Jason W. Webb and Cassandra Murphy, was more effective together than when they were apart. It was apparent the first five minuets of their first scene together on stage why they were cast into the lead roles. Their charisma together was unmatched by the other couples on the stage.

The gang scene choreography was tight and well put together. Although it seemed that some of the dancers couldn’t keep up, the off steps added to the performance, making the dancing feel like normal behavior during a street fight.

Best singing voice by far was Juliette Catrambone who played the role of Anita, girlfriend of Shark’s gang leader Bernardo (Orlando Montes).

Members of the audience would often applause after each song, most notably songs that had Anita singing it them.

Crowd favorite was Anybodys (played by Alison Hooper), the cute, tomboyish younger sister of Jet leader Riff (Bobby Perino). Mainly seen as the comic relief of the play, Hooper displayed the realistic aspects of an eager younger sibling emulating their older brother in a way that was both endearing and humorous.

West Side Story is the first production of the 2007-2008 theater season playing at Performance Riverside. You can catch other plays like Seussical: The Musical and Sensational Show Tunes II later in the season.

Not only can you receive student and staff discounts for Performance Riverside productions, they also offer group rates.

Besides the fact that you’re getting credit for showing up, theater can actually be fun.

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