Turquoise Ballet Slippers

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But the Amanda Folena-directed production isn’t just a one-horse show. It also boasts the terrifically lyrical ballet-inspired choreography of Jerome Robbins (and additional choreography by Nicole Helfer). The muscular Jets and Sharks men know their way around a ballet barre, which makes several of their numbers (the “Prologue” in particular) so poetic it’s sheer pleasure to watch. That’s the way Robbins wanted it. And with Leonard Bernstein’s soaring score, loaded with such memorable songs as “Somewhere,” “Tonight,” “Maria” and “One Hand, One Heart,” every piston has to be hitting to make this musical sizzle. It does, thanks to not only a number of top-notch voices and a solid orchestral effort lead by musical director Sean Kana.

In case anyone is unfamiliar with “West Side Story,” it’s the retelling of the classic William Shakespeare play, “Romeo and Juliet.” But now the setting is a rough, blue-collar neighborhood of New York City in the 1950s, The Jets are the local street gang, now being threatened by the emergence of the Sharks, who are mostly newly arrived from Puerto Rico, turquoise ballet slippers There are so many shiny nuggets of talent in this large (41-person) cast that it’s difficult to single out only a few, As Maria, Samantha Rose Cardenas looks sweet, innocent and trusting, and it’s surprising to hear such a strong voice coming out of such a diminutive package, Her brother, Bernardo, leader of the Sharks gang, is realistically portrayed by Alex Rodriguez, who recently stood out as Che Guevara in the Broadway By The Bay production of “Evita.”..

As Riff, the rival Jets’ leader, Zachary Padlo is possibly the best dancer in the show — and that’s saying something, considering how many excellent dancers there are here. At times, Padlo looks as if he’s practically floating. He is beautifully matched in dance by Velma, his girlfriend, played by long-legged, sassy Mary Kalita. When Kalita’s onstage, she’s the dancer everyone watches. As Anybodys (yes, that’s the character’s name), Jessica Maxey is just right as a tomboy who aches to be a part of the Jets but is always rebuffed by the guys. Taylor Iman Jones does a credible job as Anita, Bernardo’s girlfriend and Maria’s friend, but she needs to rev up her feisty attitude in the otherwise-terrific dance number “America.” As Doc, owner of the drugstore where Tony works, Ray D’Ambrosio shows a fine dose of humanity as he tries to help out the young, star-crossed lovers.

Finally, Camille Edralin as Rosalia stands out in the fiesta-like “America” song with a clear voice and a playful dance step or two, But singling out even this many actors is shortchanging at least another dozen or two, because there really isn’t a weak link in the youthful cast, It seems to be a trend to create a massive “Erector set” for big plays, because they can be configured in a multitude of ways, The one here, designed by Kelly James Tighe, works perfectly for the athletic, agile actors who turquoise ballet slippers climb, jump and leap up, down — even sideways, Other set pieces, for Maria’s bedroom, Doc’s drugstore, the bridal shop and the gym, are whisked on and off by a crew that is efficient and silent..

As with many big-cast productions, it takes a village to clothe the many actors, yet Margaret Toomey and crew are up to the task. The boys, of course, are easy to outfit, because they mostly wear jeans and T-shirts (although Bernardo often looks as if he’s dressed for success in a suit and — for the gym dance scene — a purple shirt that matches girlfriend Anita’s ruffled dress). And when the Sharks’ girlfriends doll up, they stand out in the flashy colors and styles of their native Puerto Rico.

The capacity crowd on Sunday afternoon roared its approval many times, yet the audience was pin drop quiet as Maria and Tony turquoise ballet slippers sang their painfully sweet “wedding” song with the prophetic line “Even death won’t part us now.” It’s the duets between these two (“Tonight” and “Somewhere”) that are the true heart of the story, as well as Tony’s achingly sweet ode to his new love, “Maria.”, Knowing how it ends only adds to the dramatic tension and — at least in this production — keeps the audience paying rapt attention..

Rubin has been tiptoeing toward his goal to dance on the big stage since he was 5 years old, though ballet wasn’t his first choice because he didn’t want to be with “all the girls” back then, he said. But tap and hip-hop dance just didn’t work out, so his parents searched for a ballet class he could enjoy. They found that in San Jose Ballet. “At first it was just for fun, then when I was 11 or 12 there was a performance. It felt … golden,” Rubin recalled.

That was a turning point, the now 19-year-old said, But turquoise ballet slippers his mother Svetlana, who was born in Moscow, hadn’t really considered professional ballet as an option for her son, “Me being born in Russia and being very tall, well, I wasn’t a good prospect for dance,” she half-joked, “We were pretty surprised when he asked us to take him to dance, I knew what it took [to get to the professional level], and being first-generation immigrants who had to work, taking him to class seven days a week was really hard.”..


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