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August 17, 2007

TT: Jerry's kids

One more from the road: my Wall Street Journal drama column is about two regional-theater musical revivals that make use of Jerome Robbins' original choreography.

From New Hampshire, the Seacoast Repertory Theatre's West Side Story:

Of all Robbins' shows, "West Side Story," in which the plot of "Romeo and Juliet" is transplanted to a New York slum circa 1957, is hardest to revive without his choreography. To be sure, it can be done--Joel Ferrell re-choreographed the show to fine effect for Portland Center Stage last year--but to do so is inevitably to invite comparison with the finger-popping dances that made it into the 1961 film version and so became familiar to millions of moviegoers who would never see "West Side Story" on stage. For most of us, these vaulting, vibrant sketches of teenage passion are as much a part of "West Side Story" as Leonard Bernstein's jazzy score, and any director who omits them does so at his own risk.

Brian Swasey, the man at the helm of the Seacoast Repertory Theatre's revival of "West Side Story," has opted for modesty over daring. "Who am I to think I can create something better than Jerome Robbins?" he writes in his program note. I admire his good sense--and I also admire the way in which he has managed to cram Robbins' dances into a downstairs theater whose stage isn't much larger than my Manhattan living room. My third-row seat was no more than 10 feet from the action. To see "West Side Story" in so intimate a setting is viscerally thrilling in a way that no big-house performance can possibly hope to rival....

From Maine, the Ogunquit Playhouse's King and I:

Steven Yuhasz directed the revival of "The King and I" now playing at Maine's Ogunquit Playhouse, a 75-year-old purveyor of resort-town musical comedy that bills itself as "Broadway on the Beach." He has wisely chosen to stick with the original choreography, and Susan Kikuchi's (mostly) faithful recreation of Robbins' Thai-style dance-and-mime version of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" is one of the production's highlights. The dancing isn't up to Broadway standards, but Robbins' conception is so strong and vivid that it needn't be executed perfectly in order to be perfectly charming....

No free link. To read the whole thing, buy a copy of Friday's Journal, or go here to subscribe to the Online Journal, which will give you immediate access to my drama column and all the rest of the Journal's arts coverage. (If you're already a subscriber to the Online Journal, the column is here.)

Posted August 17, 2007 12:00 AM

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