HHS West Side Story: 5 Stars

Robert J.P. Graham

Michael Patullo

Photos by: Robert J.P. Graham

West Side Story  is a tough production to stage anywhere. Therefore, when West Side Story was chosen as the spring musical at Hawthorne High School, many people were curious to see how directors Jill Hackett and Kimberly Griffin would tackle this extremely difficult task. Everyone got the answer after seeing the show during the week of April 26-29; they not only tackled the task, they completely conquered it.

Act One opened with the “Prologue,” where the audience was introduced to both gangs, the Jets and the Sharks. That scene set the tone for the rest of the play; there was orchestrated music and choreographed dancing that made the audience question if this was really a high school production rather than a Broadway production. The show got even better from there.

Riff, played by HHS senior Michael McCarthy, led the Jets in the show’s first song, the “Jet Song.” It was a fun piece to start off with, and as an audience member, I was impressed.

The musical continued to impress with amazing choreography in the “Mambo!” scene. The scene showcased the choreography (directed by Griffin) learned by the cast. Bernardo (Julio Aybar, Jr.) and Anita (Melissa Pilar) were very lively and made the scene enjoyable to watch. Riff (Michael McCarthy) and Velma (Erica Milbrook) were just as good also. It was an overall great scene.

Tony, played by HHS junior Steven Prieto, showed off his voice in songs such as “Something’s Coming” and “Maria.” (Having seen the movie, I was never a fan of the song “Maria,” but after I heard Prieto sing the song, it quickly became my favorite song of the entire show.) He put so much emotion into his singing; it made the scenes very powerful.

HHS sophomore Nicole Crilly, played Maria, also had an unbelievable voice; it was angelic.  Crilly did justice to duets such as “One Hand, One Heart” and “A Boy Like That.” They both sounded so beautiful. “A Boy Like That” was also an opportunity for Pilar to show off her voice. The whole scene between Crilly and Pilar was extremely moving.

“Tonight” was the highlight of the entire production; the whole scene was ingenious. The Jets set up on one side of the stage and the Sharks on the other side. Tony stood center stage with Maria behind him on a balcony, and Anita stood off to the side. The whole cast singing in “Tonight” was incredible; it blew the crowd away.

Overall, the songs vocally were very good, but I can’t leave out the tremendous job the orchestra did. Mike Girond conducted the orchestra, while HHS alumnus David DeRosa played the piano. The orchestra sounded so good the audience would have never known the difficulty level of the sheet music they had to play.

Behind the scenes, the crew worked hard to make the show look good. Led by stage managers Adrianna Inglese and Jennie White, the crew worked efficiently, making all of the scene changes on time. Nick Addesso directed the crew in constructing and designing props and scenery, such as the walls that had the words “Jets” and “Sharks” painted on. The lights were managed by Eric Nickl, and the sound was managed by Matt Fenkart. All these elements helped to create a completely different world that was just as important to the play as the actors.

The entire show was great from beginning to end. HHS faced the challenge of staging this demanding musical and in the end the roar of the applause confirmed that it was up to the task.