Playwright Matthew Lopez’s west side story, “Somewhere,” evokes a longing reminiscent of the song of the same title from the Broadway classic written by Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents. Lopez’s Candelaria family, like “West Side Story’s” lovers, Tony and Maria, daydreams of a time and a place just for them. Mama Inez’s (Priscilla Lopez) place is California, where she yearns to reunite herself and her three children with Papa Pepe, whom she believes is out west seeking work and money that can support them all. Daughter Rebecca’s (Benita Robledo) dream place is the Broadway stage, where she can dance her way to stardom. Cocky son Francisco’s (Juan Javier Cardenas) place is wherever he can realize his imagined talent as the next Brando.
Only the introspective (and, as it turns out, secretive) son, Alejandro (Jon Rua), believes that the family’s place is meant to be a Brooklyn housing project once they are forced out of their west side tenement. Alejandro has reigned in his own dream of being a dancer and resigned himself to a place at the neighborhood grocery store. In “Somewhere,” presented in the Old Globe’s Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre, the Candelarias’ fate becomes tied to reconciliation between dreams and reality and, not insignificantly, to the towering “West Side Story,” the stage musical and the subsequent film.
Under the direction of Giovanna Sardelli, “Somewhere” reflects Lopez’s obvious passion for the musical theater. Its affection for robust show tunes is mirrored in the Candelaria family’s starry eyes and their insatiable impulses to dance. The play’s most memorable moments are the choreographed ones: Alejandro’s gentle dance with his mother; the footloose one-upmanship between Alejandro and childhood friend Jamie (Leo Ash Evens) that becomes a deft duet; and the climactic, athletic solo by Alejandro after he’s confessed an agonizing deception to his mother.
For the most part, the dancing (stellar choreography here by Greg Graham) works in the tight confines of the White Theatre, though there are sequences when it’s difficult to see the footwork between all the props and furniture.
Lopez’s storyline is probably more complicated than it needs to be – the eviction from the tenement seems a major deal in Act 1 but forgotten in Act 2, and Alejandro’s true feelings about his errant father remain ambiguous, even at the end. This cast, though, is an appealing one, with Broadway veteran Priscilla Lopez (Matthew’s aunt) a Latina Mother Rose of Merman-esque indomitability, Cardenas both tireless and funny, and Rua darkly brooding (if at times coming off like a party pooper).
David L. Coddon is a Southern California theater critic.