(Listen to his phrasing of an ostensibly simple question like, “On what terms?
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Smaller assignments are better served — Kevin Quarmby’s sour Lt.
Schrank and Jennifer Ashton’s surprisingly resonant Anybodys, among them.
In any case, it may be the particular blessing as well as the curse of “West Side Story” to be greater than any individual interpreters; since the initial run, this show has rarely been sold on the strength of its performers (Debbie Allen’s spitfire Broadway turn notwithstanding).
And as the dreamed-for harmony of the second-act ballet accompaniment to “Somewhere” collapses into chaos and frenzy, one sees why, inasmuch as “West Side Story” bears the timeless imprint of an offstage master, Robbins, whose artistic bequest in every way lives on.
The dancing is the lone reason to leap for joy in London’s new “West Side Story,” whose footwork couldn’t be a more eloquent testimony to the legacy of the late Jerome Robbins. With a lesser show, one would simply draw a polite veil over a company that might impress the populace from suburban East Grinstead but comes across as depressingly inauthentic to anyone who’s ever walked Manhattan’s West Side.
Whether a local English public will care is debatable, especially once the Sharks and the Jets start soaring across the Prince Edward stage.
But in the wake of Trevor Nunn’s quietly radical National Theater “Oklahoma!
,” it may be time for a similar shakeup of a no less seminal achievement.
The ensemble energy can be dazzling as the cast cuts through the air, but there’s little truth to the playing of a book that, to be honest, itself sometimes seems far more antique than its centuries-old Shakespearean source.