It feels quite . . . different.
A galvanizing new revival of “West Aspect Story” opened Thursday evening on Broadway, minus some familiar sights and sounds. Jerome Robbins’ famous choreography has been Jet-tisoned alongside with the “Somewhere” ballet, and Maria’s chirpy “I Sense Pretty” was given the ax. There’s no lengthier an intermission, with the musical now running a breakneck one hour and forty five minutes.
Instead, in Belgian director Ivo van Hove’s finger-snapping-free staging, there’s a gigantic video clip wall at the rear of a generally spare stage, modern-day apparel and a ferocity not noticed given that the musical’s 1957 premiere, when The Post’s Richard Watts Jr. called it the tale of “the ugliness and horror of a war to the dying among the boys.” With that in thoughts, van Hove’s visceral acquire is spot-on for 2020. As prolonged as children are continue to currently being born into a “lousy” entire world, “West Aspect Story” should not be a excursion down memory lane — it ought to be uncooked and true.
By pushing back again versus what we try to remember from the Oscar-profitable 1961 movie, a musical that quite a few can recite line-by-line becomes newly suspenseful and gripping. It is continue to the “Romeo and Juliet”-impressed tale of Tony (Isaac Powell) of the Jets gang, and Maria (Shereen Pimentel), the sister of the rival Sharks gang chief, Bernardo (Amar Ramasar). The couple meets during a dance at the fitness center and, at wonderful chance to them selves, tumble in appreciate. But every move in this perfectly-worn plot arrives as a startling surprise, starting with the gangs them selves.
As we observe during Leonard Bernstein’s booming “Prologue,” when a digital camera pans across the cast’s faces, the racially specific animus (Puerto Ricans vs . the Polish and Irish) is mostly absent. It is continue to there in Arthur Laurents’ ebook and Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics, but in an work to replicate modern-day-day New York and its evolving conflicts, the casting is entirely diverse — and devastatingly younger.
At initially, van Hove’s eyesight can be discombobulating. Doc’s drugstore, a type-of truce zone for the Sharks and Jets, has been turned from a helpful ’50s soda counter into a fluorescently lit corner bodega. A video clip digital camera explores the shop as if it is an indie movie set: Squint and you can spot a can of Ajax in the back again. As the gangs make options for a deadly rumble, I couldn’t assistance but believe of the horrific 2018 gang slaying of a fifteen-calendar year-aged boy at a Bronx bodega. The whole manufacturing pulses with this kind of relevance: Just hold out until you see the blood-soaked “Somewhere.”
Possibilities are, the closest you’ve occur to observing a manufacturing of this musical without Robbins’ first moves is at a superior college that couldn’t very nail them. But now we have Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s far more modern-day dances, which toss apart grace for youthful clumsiness and anger. There’s continue to some Latin aptitude — the teens yell “mambo!” right after all, not “Isadora Duncan!” — but it is not showstopping things.
What the fewer-imposing dance and van Hove’s digital camera shut-ups do is allow richer people, especially the younger lovers. The remarkable Powell tends to make the most transferring, inspired and emotionally turbulent Tony you are most likely to have noticed. His golden-voiced “Maria” is Mountain Dew-inflected, with a teen’s energy and squirmy awkwardness, and the “Tonight” duet with his Maria, an affecting Pimentel, is a serene stunner. You can really feel the show’s amped up angst through Ramasar’s brooding Bernardo during the wet rumble.
Revisionism is practically nothing new on Broadway. Sam Mendes did it in 1998 with his sexed-up “Cabaret” and John Doyle did it in 2005 with his dressed-down “Sweeney Todd.” The hottest was Daniel Fish’s “Oklahoma!”, which pushed apart that show’s satisfied spirit for judgy politics. But as odd and new as this “West Aspect Story” may well surface, van Hove’s manufacturing has the utmost respect for the first.
It is continue to the show you appreciate, reinvented for the time in which you stay.