By Janee Law
At the end of an emotional rollercoaster at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport on Thursday, the audience rose to provide a standing ovation for the performers of “West Side Story.”
The rendition of Arthur Laurents’ famous American musical was dripping with eloquence, as the young cast commanded the stage, drawing out laughter and tears from the audience.
Directed by Igor Goldin, the appearance of “West Side Story,” hosted at 250 Main St., was the theater’s 50th production, said Season Ticket Manager Jackie Polden.
Opening the show with a dance number, Jeffry Denman’s choreography was captivating, as members from the Jets and Sharks gangs jumped in the air at one another to portray their hatred for each other.
When the leader of the Jets, Riff (Sam Wolf) and the leader of the Sharks, Bernardo (Nikko Kimzin), entered the stage and come face to face, the intensity thickens, as their strong demeanors and stern expressions clash at the sight of each other.
The dramatic undertone that dictated the energy of the show was lead by musical director, James Olmstead, whose live orchestra remained hidden underneath the stage throughout play.
Set in New York City in 1957, “West Side Story” tells a story about hate, love, crime, fear and violence. In the midst of the chaos between the Sharks, a Puerto Rican gang, and the Jets, a white gang, ignites a romance between Barnardo’s sister, Maria (Samantha Williams), and former Jet, Tony (Zach Trimmer).
Their love begins during an energetic dance scene, “Dance at the Gym,” where the Jets and the Sharks face off in a dance competition, infused with ballet and salsa. Williams and Trimmer lock eyes amongst the chaos and become a calming center for the audience.
In their songs with one another, including “Tonight,” “One Hand One Heart” and “Somewhere,” Williams, a Huntington resident, and Trimmer, deliver a heartfelt performance and, while Williams releases an operetta form of voice and Trimmer produces a soft vibrato, their voices remain in sync.
Other memorable performances were by Karli Dinardo, Anita, whose bold presence shined wildly on stage, during the “America” number and the emotional duo with Williams, “A Boy Like That/I Have a Love.”
The show also gave the audience a good laugh in the “Gee, Officer Krupke performance,“ sung by the wide-eyed, hothead of the Jets, Action (Scott Shedenhelm).
Parallel to William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the final scene brought watchers to tears, as Maria delivers a heartbreaking performance as the girl who loved and lost.
When asked about playing the lead, Williams, said that it was thrilling.
“This show could never get old for the people performing it,” said Williams, 25. “It’s just a timeless piece that everyone loves.”
John W. Engeman Theater will be hosting West Side Story until Nov. 8. Shows are between Thursdays and Sundays and tickets range from $69-$74.
For more information visit http://engemantheater.com/