Hold my hand, and we're halfway there
Hold my hand, and I'll take you there
West Side Story is the tragic story of lovers Tony and Maria who were caught in the middle of warring gangs - the all-white Jets and the Puerto Rican Sharks. Tony is a gang member from the Jets while Maria is the sister of the Shark's main man. Theirs was a modern day Romeo and Juliet set in New York's Manhattan. Featuring Christian Baustista as Tony and Joanna Ampil as Maria, The West Side Story opened yesterday (September 4) with a formal gala premiere at the Meralco Theater in Ortigas. This specific show was for the benefit of Bayanijuan (an ABS-CBN initiative to help the country's poorest of the poor).
Reasons why you should watch West Side Story
1. Joanna Ampil
She's a wonderful Maria with a crystal clear voice and and an impeccable stage presence. A veteran of theater productions, Joanna makes the audience comfortable with her effortlessness on stage. As many critics would say, if Lea Salonga is to Broadway, Joanna Ampil is to West End. I could not agree more. Her voice rings with emotions. She exceeded my expectations and she'll make you proud to be Filipino.
I was amazed as to how she sang and danced with great ease. She's so perfect as Bernardo's girl. I most specially loved her on the song and dance rendition of "America." She was also stellar on the part where she bravely went into the Jet's lair to deliver a message to Tony but was dismissed brusquely by the gang members.
Familiar and poignant. Immortal hymns by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim like "Somewhere," "Tonight," "One Hand, One Heart," and "America." It kept playing over and over in my head. LSS (Last Song Syndrome) to the highest order.
I love the fact that the stage looks so full when they dance, whether these are fight scenes or lively interpretations of boys-girls, Jets-Sharks banters. I specifically enjoy the fight choreographies. They're fluid, balanced and engaging.
5. Bernardo (Sharks) and Riff (Jets)
As arch rivals, they both have the spunk and attitude of a street gang leader. They also have the versatility to belt a song or do a well-choreographed dance routine of a street fight. I think their characters tremendously contributed to the intensity of the musical.
On Christian Baustista as Tony: He's probably not the best choice for the lead. He and Tony doesn't fit to a T. For one, he doesn't look like a street gang member. He doesn't even act like one. I think he needs to be comfortable with his role so that he can command the stage more. There were several scenes where he has to do solos and the stage just consumes him. You can also sense his nervousness from a hundred yards away. Although he has a good voice, you can hear it quiver especially when hitting the high notes. The guy has potentials, but this isn't his best yet.
West Side Story runs at Meralco Theater on Sept. 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, 21, Oct. 3, 4, 5, 10, 11, and 12, 2008. For tickets, call Ticketworld at 891-9999 or STAGES at 818-1111 loc. 225. Ticketworld is online at http://www.ticketworld.com.ph/
WEST SIDE STORY QUOTABLE QUOTE:
"When love comes so strong, there is no right or wrong, your love is your life."
- Anita and Maria