NJPAC Performs West Side Story: 3 Stars

Samantha Contrini, Staff Writer/Web Publisher

New Jersey Performing Arts Center, NJPAC, presented West Side Story on May 3, 2012. As HHS students from Alyssa Schlossberg’s English II classes and Jill Hackett’s Performance English classes entered the auditorium, we knew this was going to be a high-end production. The auditorium was absolutely beautiful, and the audience knew exactly when to ready themselves for the start of the show because the giant crystal ball in the center of the auditorium was lifted to the ceiling as the lights dimmed.

In general, the performers at NJPAC did an amazing job. Tony, played by Ross Lekates, and Maria, played by Evy Ortyz, had noticeable chemistry that made for an excellent lead couple. I really enjoyed the orchestra and the choreography blew my mind. But, what interested me the most were the props. Every wall, table, and chair was moved by a pulley system, so you never saw any crew members. It took an average of eight seconds for them to change scenes. I have a feeling it took even that long simply because the characters can run only so fast on and off the stage.

Considering I’ve been in four shows here at HHS, including West Side Story, I did have high expectations for NJPACs production of this play, and I was very critical. The emotional attachment that an audience member usually makes with the characters was lacking. During the finale, when Tony was shot, members of the audience laughed. And as he was dying, I didn’t feel the need to cry. The singing voices of the lead roles weren’t as amazing as I expected them to be. But, I have been blessed with hearing the angelic singing voice of sophomore Nicole Crilly, who played Maria in HHS West Side Story, and the beautiful singing voice of junior Steven Prieto, who played Tony, so maybe my expectations were a little too high.

Even though I was left a little disappointed in the end, NJPAC did a fantastic job with this production of a classic play and made good use of the two and a half hours I spent there.