Mt. Hebron’s spring musical, “West Side Story,” directed by well known math teacher Mr. Tom Sankey, premiered on Mar. 17 and continued on Mar. 18, 23, 24 and 25.
West Side Story is set in the 1950s in the West Side of Manhattan and follows two gangs, the Jets, led by Riff, played by freshman Nick Brogan, and the Sharks, led by Bernardo, played by senior Rory Nolan. A bitter racially-fueled rivalry between these gangs leads to many fights on the street.
The local police Lieutenant, played by senior Ryan Skinner, tries to control the rival gangs, and a joint dance at the local gym is where the main characters Tony and Maria, played by seniors Kevin Nolan and Emma Davis, respectively, meet and fall in love. While they struggle to find a way to be together, people in their lives threaten to keep them apart, including Anita, Maria’s friend and Bernardo’s girlfriend, played by senior Alyssa Tschirgi.
This musical was a fun, action-packed story. It is inspired by William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet; however, it takes on a life of its own with the discussion of racial tensions between the local Puerto Rican immigrants and native New Yorkers. All of these themes were well shown and acted out by the Mt. Hebron students on stage.
Tschirgi and Rory Nolan portrayed Anita and Bernardo with depth and flourish, easily earning the love of the audience, even if some of their motives were questionable. Tschirgi was especially entertaining as Anita, effortlessly taking on the layered character with ease. Their fellow gang members, seniors Andrew Smith and Edima Essien, also gave fantastic performances as Chino and Rosalia, respectively.
Whether he was acting, singing or dancing, Brogan made a splash in his musical debut as Riff. His performance in the opening scenes and in the song “Cool” was fun and entertaining. His friends Action and A-Rab, played by seniors Sam Bishop and Ilan Pluznik, added immense humor to scenes that needed it, but still maintained the depth of their characters. Senior Amanda Jackson played Anybodys, a feisty girl desperate to join the Jets gang, and was a great addition to the cast.
Davis and Kevin Nolan stole hearts with their performance as Maria and Tony. Beautiful vocals, combined with amazing acting and the ability to maintain the characters’ individual personalities made for a flawless performance. Davis’s vocals and emotional performance stunned the audience throughout the whole musical.
The choreography in all of the musical numbers was intricate and entertaining. The audience got to see different acrobatics, Latin dancing and fight scenes. These routines, paired with fantastic vocals, stole the show. Some of the most memorable were “America,” “Cool,” and “Gee Officer Krupke.”
The set was also fantastic and well-constructed. It held well as cast members did different stunts over and under them. Maria’s room was an interesting addition to the show and allowed the audience to immerse themselves in the musical while being practical for multiple scenes that needed it. The stage crew were quick, quiet and efficient when moving set pieces around. Closing the curtains to allow set changes during several scenes was an intelligent choice that allowed the audience to focus on the characters’ words and actions.
The costumes were realistic and fit well on all of the cast members. Small details such as the gangs’ jackets and the Shark girls’ large skirts added a nice touch to the feel of the musical and were aesthetically pleasing.
Stage effects were another aspect of the musical that created a more realistic feel, specifically the gun shot towards the end of the play that made many in the audience jump slightly out of their seats.
Sadly, this was the last performance for many of the cast members. Davis, Bishop, Tschirgi, Rory Nolan, Kevin Nolan, Pluznik, Jackson, Megan Scarbath, and Essien are all long-term members of the theater community who are saying farewell to Mt. Hebron this year.
As always, none of this could have been done without Mr. Tom Sankey, chorus teacher Mr. Chris Hettenbach, band director Ms. Nicole Papadatos, choreographer Ms. Amanda Slatin, costume director Ms. Barbara Bogart, and many more.