Valley Youth Theater hits high note with ‘West Side Story’

(Photo by Keerthi Vedantam)

(Photo by Keerthi Vedantam)

For a moment, time stood still.

For a moment, everyone held their breath with eyes glued to the stage.

As a group of Jets and Sharks lifted Tony’s body from the ground and took him away, a heartbroken Maria seemed so small on a stage that seemed so vast.

The small and intimate nature of Herberger Theater combined with the extravagant sets and brilliant young actors of Valley Youth Theater made for a wonderful evening performance of “West Side Story.”

The musical, which began Aug. 8 and closed Aug. 24, chronicles the lives of young Puerto Rican immigrants, the Sharks, and their battle with young native-born Americans, the Jets, to rule the poverty-stricken Upper West Side of Manhattan in the 1960s.

From start to finish, the Valley Youth Theater troupe aced the play in nearly every major musical aspect. Mike Spenger (Tony) and Sedona Urias-Ramonett (Maria) joined together to create intense chemistry on stage. Flaunting wide vocal ranges, both Spenger and Urias-Ramonett captured the audience’s hearts for an entire two hours with musical scores such as “Tonight” and “One Hand, One Heart.”

Each dance number was lively and nothing short of mesmerizing, with full skirts twirling in timely precision to the music and an orchestra pit that punctuated every kick and punch in the brawl scenes with a sharp note.

However, it was the second act that truly made the trip to Herberger Theater memorable. Upon watching Tony die, Urias-Ramonett gave a breathtaking performance. She depicted the pain of a young girl grief-stricken after the death of a loved one so well, I couldn’t help but feel the need to comfort her.

As the Sharks and Jets congregated around the couple, Maria silently brought the rival gangs together before they all filed out in a slow, mournful progression.

Maria, shawl wrapped over her head and shoulders, faded into the black.

 

Reach the reporter at kvedanta@asu.edu or follow her on Twitter @keerthivedantam