“Five Things I Think I Think About” La Mirada’s “West Side Story”

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Southern California News Group

Ashley Marie and Eddie Egan star as Maria and Tony in La Mirada Theatre and McCoy Rigby Entertainment’s production of “West Side Story.” (Photo by Jason Niedle, Orange County Register)

Five things I think I think about the McCoy/Rigby Entertainment’s production of West Side Story, now playing through May 14 at the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts (with apologies to Peter King of SI.com, who runs “10 Things I Think I Think” in his weekly “Monday Morning QB” column).

1. The crowd Friday night was nearly full capacity, much larger than any of the three previous productions for the current season. There were lots of young people in the audience, always a good sign!

2. If your only experience of West Side Story is through the somewhat sanitized 1961 motion picture, this realistic mounting of the original 1957 Broadway production will come as quite a shock, particularly the riveting conclusion. The book, which was written by Arthur Laurents with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, is quite raw in many places and Bernstein’s score remains a landmark in 20th century music in part for its ability to fully capture the dramatics in such an intense way.

3. Kudos to McCoy/Rigby Entertainment for not trying to “reset” the action into something more contemporary in terms of the “immigrant vs. ‘native-born American’ ” issues (Puerto Ricans, of course, ARE U.S. citizens, which is part of the story line.) A re-set could have worked but why bother? The anger frustration and bigotry spitting out of Lt. Schrank, the Jets and the Sharks still resonates strongly today.

4. The singer/actor/dancers in a uniformly strong cast and John Todd’s reworking of Jerome Robbins’ original choreography are among the hits of the show. Stephen Gifford’s gritty sets provided a perfect opportunity for everyone to show off their athletic/artistic abilities. Robbins’ choreo was always central the musical’s success. Nothing has changed about that.

5. Sexuality and violence are ever-present in the show, which includes highly suggestive dancing, Tony and Maria in bed, fights, three murders and a graphic rape scene.

West Side Story runs through May 14. 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday at the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada

Eric Marchese’s review in the Daily News and other California Newspaper Group publications is HERE. He and I are almost completely in agreement.

(c) Copyright 2017, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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FIVE-SPOT: March 9-16, 2017

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Southern California News Group

Each week about this time I list five (more or less) classical-music programs in Southern California (more or less) during the next seven days (more or less) that might be worth attending.

8 p.m. in The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, Beverly Hills

Kirshbaum and Wosner play Beethoven’s complete cello sonatas over the course of two nights, along with music by Mozart and Handel. Kirshbaum is chair of the strings department at the USC Thornton School of Music and holds the school’s Gregor Piatigorsky Chair for Violincello.

BONUS: Kirshbaum and Wosner recently issued a CD of this music.

Information: www.thewallis.org

7:30 p.m. in Bovard Auditorium (USC); Los Angeles

Guest conductor Uriel Segal leads the USC Thornton Symphony in Mahler’s Sixth Symphony.

BONUS: Free Admission. Bovard Auditorium is easily accessible via Metro’s Expo Line. Exit at the Expo Park/USC line and walk north through the USC campus to reach Bovard (adjacent to the Tommy Trojan statue).

Information: www.music.usc.edu

March 10 at 8 p.m. March 11 at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. March 12 at 3 p.m.
In Valley Performing Arts Center (Cal State Northridge); Northridge

As we close in on the centennial of Leonard Bernstein’s birth (Aug. 15, 2018), McCoy Rigby Entertainment brings its production of the composer’s best-known work to VPAC. Next month it begins a run at the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts (INFO).

BONUS: The Sunday show will be a sign-language interpreted performance. Also, check Goldstar for potential discount tickets HERE.

Information: www.vallerperformingartscenter.org

March 10 at 11 a.m. March 11 at 8 p.m. March 12 at 2 p.m.
at Walt Disney Concert Hall; Los Angeles

Guest conductor Jaap van Zweden, incoming music director of the New York Philharmonic and continuing in the same role at the Hong Kong Philharmonic, conducts the LAPO in the fifth symphonies of Beethoven and Shostakovich.

BONUS: This represents a chance to compare and contrast the LAPO performance of Shostakovich’s fifth symphony with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic on March 16 at VPAC (see below).

Information: www.laphil.org

Wednesday at 8 p.m. in Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall; Costa Mesa
Thursday at 8 p.m. in Valley Performing Arts Center (Cal State Northridge); Northridge

The St. Petersburg Philharmonic and its longtime conductor, Yuri Temirkanov, are ending a cross-country U.S. tour with concerts in California. The OC concert is Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe, Suite No. 2, selections from Prokofiev’s ballet score Romeo and Juliet, and the Russian composer’s Violin Concerto No. 2, with Japanese violinist Sayaka Shoji as soloist.

The VPAC concert is Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 and Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1, with Garrick Ohlsson as the soloist. So, as noted above, this concert gives us a chance to compare the L.A. Phil with the folks from St. Petersburg who have Shostakovich in their collective DNA.

Costa Mesa information: www.philharmonicsociety.org
VPAC information: www.valleyperformingartscenter.org

(c) Copyright 2017, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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