Oakton High School
Two gangs, both alike in dignity, in fair Manhattan, where we lay our scene. From ancient racial divide break to new mutiny, where civil rumbles make civil hands unclean! Rockville High School snapped, leaped, and spun through their vibrant and thrilling production of West Side Story: School Edition.
Inspired by William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story follows Tony and Maria, a pair of star-crossed lovers from opposing gangs, whose desperation to be together leads to misadventured, piteous results. The classical tragedy was first modernized in the 1957 Broadway musical, and the production was nominated for six Tony awards, winning Best Choreography and Best Scenic Design. The musical was later revived in 1964, 1980, and 2008. One of the most recognized mediums of the story, however, is the eponymous 1961 film adaptation that won 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
Maria, Maria, Maria, Maria... Enchanting and innocent, Gabriela Sanchez breathed life into the production as Maria. Her strong stage presence came from her consistently high energy and vivid expression, which made the familiar show captivating and refreshing. Sanchez's voice was well-suited for the high soprano part, particularly in "One Hand, One Heart," where Sanchez expertly blended with Tony (Jacob Lunsford) to produce an intimate scene while the audience peeked in upon them. Continuing to impress, Sanchez's diction was crisp and pronounced, a detail that became noticeable in the fast-paced production.
Riff (Dylan Hawkins), Action (Luke Marple), Snowboy (Esther Frances), and Anybodys (Genevieve Hill) built off each other's energy with a natural, boyish chemistry as the quartet of Jets discussed Tony's gang involvement, as well as the ominous rumble. Hawkins' natural leadership and strong vocals, Marple's hilariously taunting nature, Frances' spot-on impersonations, and Hill's "chip-on-shoulder" attitude contributed to each character's unique persona. Most notable of the four was Marple; whether pleading to a judge, psychiatrist, or social worker, his endless antics and comical turnarounds in "Gee, Officer Krupke" lightened the load of the heavy show while saying "Krup you!" to the corrupt officer.
Other notable performances include that of Anita, as played by Donna Mbulaiteye. With a serious tone and reserved manner, the weight of the character's struggles shone through in Mbulaiteye's solemn delivery, and her voice was equally as impressive. Showing off her stunning vocal tones in "A Boy Like That/I Have A Love," Mbulaiteye proved her skill with the impactful performance.
A major success of the show was the set design (Ryley Gardner et al). The black and white backdrop of clothes-pinned laundry cast slight shadows on the cyclorama, both adding to the ominous tone and conveying the underlying contrasts in class level between the Jets and Sharks. Further emphasizing the differences between the worlds of Tony and Maria, the Jets nearly always resided in the sturdy walls of Doc's Convenience Store, while most scenes with the Sharks were surrounded by bare scaffolding, a subtle but powerful touch. The most impressive of set aspects was the use of suspension - intricately detailed store signs as well as laundry lines were suspended in air, which meant for quick transitions that kept the show feeling continual and uninterrupted rather than staccato and detached.
The fearful passage of Tony and Maria's death-mark'd love, and continuance of their gangs' rage which, but their life's end, nought could remove, was the two hours' song of the Rockville stage. Delivered with passion and heart, Rockville High School's performance of West Side Story: School Edition was pretty, witty, bright, and more!
Westfield High School
Rhythmic snapping emerges from the shadows of a Manhattan alley. In twos, threes, and fours, the brooding members of the Jets take to the streets to rightfully defend the gang's turf from their conniving Puerto Rican rivals. When a chance meeting between people of contending sides sparks a forbidden romance, the newfound star-crossed lovers must find a way to let love prevail in Rockville High School's production of West Side Story: School Edition.
Within a dismal borough of New York is the tale of two groups divided by their origins, reminiscent of Shakespeare's fabled Romeo and Juliet in an urbanized new light that is West Side Story. The sudden affections of Tony, a prominent Jet, and the naive pride of the Sharks, Maria, begins to flourish despite the violent tensions between their worlds. The couple tiptoes around war counsels and blood feuds determined to overcome the hatred that surrounds them.
West Side Story took the musical theatre world by storm with its Broadway premiere in 1957. The mature themes of adolescent gang activity combined with the note of tragedy derived from its Shakespearean inspiration provided a stark contrast to the typical happy-go-lucky musicals of the time. With a book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein, and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, the show received six Tony Award nominations, winning choreography and scenic design.
The graceful innocence of Maria was portrayed by Gabriela Sanchez, who upheld a consistent Puerto Rican accent with clear and precise diction. Her vocal abilities extended to that of her singing voice in stellar performances like "I Feel Pretty." Jacob Lunsford portrayed Tony with the necessary lovestruck aspect of his character. Lunsford and Sanchez had a heartwarming dynamic as their infatuation with one another developed throughout the show.
The ensemble of Jets included a number of standout performers who embodied their characters with commitment and humor. Action (Luke Marple) carried "Gee, Officer Krupke" with skillful comedic timing as he pranced about the stage in a lively display of the number. Genevieve Hill portrayed Anybodys, the rambunctious tomboy of the group. Hill delved into every aspect of her character, whether it was acting tough to fit in with the boys or tearing up in somber moments. The fearless leader of the gang, Riff, was portrayed by Dylan Hawkins with ease. Hawkins was genuine in every respect, from his gruff yet suave demeanor to his raw vocals.
The lighting operation of Camille Hoffman, Alexia Moser, Lucy Fields, and Adam Reinhold flowed smoothly between groupings of actors in "Tonight (Quintet)." As the five groups and individuals sang their respective parts, each one was illuminated individually by a vivid light before it swiftly transitioned to the next group to sing and back again. Polished orchestrations resonated throughout the theater at the hands of the talented Rockville High School Pit Orchestra.
Within two opposing worlds shrouded in hostility bloomed a passionate romance against all odds. In Rockville High School's heartening rendition of West Side Story, the audience is reminded that there is always room for a sincere love story; even within the jarring malice of life on the West Side.