West Side Story is the greatest of all takes on Romeo and Juliet. Up in Vista, Moonlight Stage Productions’ revival directed by Steven Glaudini is an uncompromising adaptation that does not avoid any of this legendary musical’s darkness. Theirs is a polished yet frank production of a show that stands proudly on the shoulders of its creative giants: Leonard Bernstein (music), Stephen Sondheim (lyrics) and Jerome Robbins (the original director and choreographer).
Michael James Byrne, paired with 18-year-old Bella Gil (as lovestruck Maria), delivers vocals that are tender and deep-seated as equally lovestruck Tony, while Courtney Arango brings all the passion required of Anita, the supporting but equally important female role. The fight scenes are fierce, the dancing exuberant and the aura ominous and foredoomed, just as West Side Story’s streets of New York should be.
(Review originally published in San Diego CityBeat on 8/21/19.)
David L. Coddon is a Southern California theater critic.