West Side Story thrills on opening night

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Mr. Gary Rogers

To put it simply, the cast of West Side Story put on an amazing performance Wednesday night. Coming into the performance, many in the crowd didn’t know what to expect. Whether they knew the plot behind West Side Story or not, the crowd was anxious to see how the high school actors and actresses would perform.

Needless to say, the cast knocked it out of the park. From the opening scene to the end, the musical was filled with amazing acting, flawless choreography, and intense emotions. Senior Anthony Ciarla played the lead male role, Tony, while Seton’s Taylor Gray played the lead female role, Maria. The two worked great together; both their singing and acting were remarkable, and the crowd noticed that right from their first duet.

Lead roles Anthony Ciarla and Taylor Gray.
Photo by Dave Herdeman
Lead roles Anthony Ciarla and Taylor Gray.

Although Ciarla and Gray were the lead roles, other actors and actresses playing prominent roles also had impressive performances. Between the Jets and the Sharks, many of the actors and actresses wowed the crowd. Senior Duncan Kelley played Riff (the leader of the Jets), and had a standout performance. His brother, Paxton, played Bernardo, the leader of the Sharks, and adversaries of the Jets.

I thought that the two did a great job showing the contrast between their characters through their exchanges on stage. Duncan’s character, Riff, represented the “hoodlums” of society, with his slicked back hair, jeans, and New York accent. Paxton’s character, Bernardo, represented the Puerto Ricans, first generation immigrants who are tired of being discriminated against. Overall, the Kelley brothers did a great job showing the contrast between the two characters.

Riff (left) and Bernardo (right) battle it out during the rumble.
Photo by Dave Herdeman
Riff (left) and Bernardo (right) battle it out during the rumble.

Judging by how well the cast performed, it seemed as if they had been prepared for this for a long time. When asked how long they’ve been preparing for the musical, Junior cast member Elliot Reiring (who played Toro, one of the Sharks) replied, “We have been practicing probably almost every week day for the past couple of weeks. I believe we started back in late January.”

Another facet of the play I found interesting was how the actors and actresses did such great jobs mastering the accents their characters used. When asked if there were any difficulties in learning the dialect, Senior Matt Bailey (Chino) replied, “It took months of work to learn the dialect and get the accent down. Luckily, I had help from Spanish teachers at Elder and Seton in getting my voice prepared for the musical.”

Many in the crowd walked away amazed by the musical. Among those in attendance was Senior Noah Willman. Although he showed up a couple minutes late, Noah still had a great time at the musical, saying “Although there were a few problems with the microphones, I thought the cast did a terrific job. Ciarla really stole the show with his singing and acting skills–phenomenal.”

I thought the cast did a terrific job. Ciarla really stole the show with his singing and acting skills–phenomenal.”

— Noah Willman '16

Mr. Gary Rogers was involved with the production and scenic design of the musical. When asked about his opinion of the performance, Mr. Rogers responded, “What I found interesting about the play is that it mainly features men. There were about twenty guys on stage, and during the rumble I began to think whether or not the next play would feature more female roles to counteract how prominent the male roles were in this work.” Mr. Rogers then mentioned that when he was 21 years old, he too appeared in West Side Story as Riff, Duncan Kelley’s character.

Student Body President Jake Rinear gave a sensational performance in WSS
Photo by Dave Herdeman
Student Body President Jake Rinear gave a sensational performance in WSS

Not surprisingly, Senior Jake Rinear also gave a strong performance in the play. Rinear played Lieutenant Schrank, the neighborhood police lieutenant. Schrank seemed to be one of the more difficult roles to play. It required the actor to speak strongly and sternly. However, Rinear was up to the task and performed admirably. When asked about his opinion of Rinear’s performance, Senior Matt Bailey remarked, “He as a great fit for the role; he pretty much plays himself. Jake and I are both first-year musical guys and we both were given so much help in preparing for our roles. We really appreciated all of the help from the directors.”

Overall, West Side Story‘s opening night seemed like an enormous success. I found myself consistently entertained, and I would highly recommend that you go see the musical this weekend if you have the time–you won’t regret it. Showtimes are Friday at 7, Saturday at 7, and Sunday at 3.