West Side Story | Ford Center for the Performing Arts, Oriental Theatre | Theater & Performance | Chicago Reader
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When he reviewed the Broadway revival of West Side Story in 2009, New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley observed that the "teenage hoodlums that maraud through [it] seem like really nice kids." You "expect their parents to show up in station wagons," he wrote, "to take them home at the end of the rumble." That clean-cut quality is preserved in this touring version, and it can be damned distracting. Andres Acosta's Bernardo and Theo Lencicki's Riff, in particular, look more like varsity tennis players than the chiefs of rival street gangs. The ensemble dance numbers like "Cool" ("Boy, boy, crazy boy / Get cool boy. . .") with poise and athleticism but little of the jump-out-of-your-skin ferocity they demand, calling into question the rage that makes these kids willing to die for a few tenement buildings and a cement-paved park. Still, Leonard Bernstein's score, Stephen Sondheim's lyrics, and Arthur Laurents's book are overwhelming on their own account, and the nice-kids approach does have its pleasures: One is watching Maryjoanna Grisso and Addison Reid Coe as the star-crossed lovers, Maria and Tony, trying and failing to keep their hands off each other; another is the sublime, light-saturated fantasy sequence in which not just Tony and Maria but their troubled communities are imagined finding a "new way of living . . . a way of forgiving." --Tony Adler

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