West Side Story by Upper Darby High School in Drexel Hill, PA
March 14, 2018
Review submitted by Katelyn Tuberosa of Cardinal O’Hara High School
“Tonight, tonight it all began tonight. I saw you and the world went away.” The Upper Darby Performing Arts Center was transformed into New York’s West Side for more than two hours, and the outside world disappeared. The immaculate sound, talented orchestra, and the masterful choreography of the production West Side Story proved that Upper Darby is a dominant force in high school theater.
West Side Story is a musical spin on the story of Romeo and Juliet. The Sharks and the Jets, two intimidating gangs in New York City, have been at “war” with each other over turf they believe belongs to them. Tony, a member of the Jets, meets Maria, the rival gang leader’s sister, at a dance, and falls in love with her instantly. This situation proves to be disastrous for both the Sharks and the Jets. When tragedy struck, the audience could not help but be drawn into the spellbinding tale of love and hate.
Tom Geiger (Tony) and Sofia Vizzarri (Maria) had undeniable chemistry. Their voices were not only melodic as soloists, but also blended together perfectly. Their passion for performing is clearly shown when they delivered lines—emoting joy, hope, infatuation, and agony. Rain Diaz (Bernardo) kept a consistent accent throughout the show and perfectly portrayed the overprotective brother who takes pride in his heritage.
Genevieve Bruce (Anybodys) was perfectly cast in a role that demonstrated that she is a triple threat. Her lines were timed perfectly; her voice in “Somewhere” was haunting, which left the audience in tears; and her ballet skills were graceful and elegant. Mike Weir (Riff), Mark La Vecchio (Action), Jayson Brown (Baby John), and the rest of the Jets showed off their impeccable choreography in songs such as “Cool” and “Gee, Officer Krupke.”
Other standouts included the Shark girls in their performance of “America.” Rylee Curry (Anita) and Emma Speck (Rosalia) played off each other’s energy in this show-stopping number. The other Shark Girls supported them with soulful vocals and swift dance moves in this breathtaking number.
The Upper Darby High School Pit Orchestra worked well with the performers on stage, especially since the orchestra was in the band room behind the stage. The sound, managed by C’mone Smith, was fluid, consistent, and filled the theater. The stage crew moved sets and props with seamless precision.
Upper Darby’s production of West Side Story was certainly wild, bright, riveting, and memorable, all the while sending the message that there is no room for hate in our world.
Review submitted by Phoebe Barr of Episcopal Academy
The iconic tale of West Side Story, based on the even more iconic Romeo and Juliet, is an extraordinarily difficult production for any group to put on. It includes many different styles of dancing, stage combat, sweeping musical numbers, comedy, tragedy, and depictions of prejudice. Upper Darby High School met the challenge of such an ambitious musical head-on, and it delivered magnificently.
On the streets of 1950s New York City, the two rival gangs – the Jets and the Sharks – fight over territory. Riff (Mike Weir), the confident and charismatic leader of the Jets, decides to challenge the Puerto Rican Sharks to a “rumble,” determining which gang is the best once and for all. But Riff’s best friend, Tony (Tom Geiger), falls in love with Maria (Sofia Vizzarri), the sister of the Sharks’ leader Bernardo (Rain Diaz). As the two of them struggle to stop the rumble from taking place and make peace between the Jets and the Sharks, tensions mount on both sides, careening toward the story’s inevitable tragic conclusion. Tom Geiger and Sofia Vizzarri present a beautifully believable romance, emphasizing the wonder and confusion of two teenagers in love for the first time. Meanwhile, the secondary couple, Bernardo and Anita (Rylee Curry), provide social commentary, as well as some much-needed comic relief.
The show’s music was its most impressive feature, from the solos and duets sung by the principal characters to the long stretches of orchestration done by the show’s student orchestra. It was an impressive feat to fill such a large theater with sound, but everything was clearly audible throughout. Even during large and difficult dance numbers, the performers were always singing out, a particularly spectacular example being Rylee Curry as Anita during her song “America.” The sets, costumes, and lighting were also very well done, at a tier which resembled professional work.
West Side Story is an ambitious musical, and Upper Darby High School was ambitious in its performance. It is a credit to all involved that they were able to display such polished and masterly work. The show was funny, tragic, musical, and beautiful.