It feels pretty . . . distinctive.
A galvanizing new revival of “West Aspect Story” opened Thursday night time on Broadway, minus some familiar sights and seems. Jerome Robbins’ legendary choreography has been Jet-tisoned together with the “Somewhere” ballet, and Maria’s chirpy “I Sense Pretty” was provided the ax. There’s no lengthier an intermission, with the musical now managing a breakneck a person hour and forty five minutes.
Alternatively, in Belgian director Ivo van Hove’s finger-snapping-cost-free staging, there’s a gigantic video clip wall driving a typically spare phase, modern clothing and a ferocity not seen because the musical’s 1957 premiere, when The Post’s Richard Watts Jr. named it the tale of “the ugliness and horror of a war to the death in between the boys.” With that in thoughts, van Hove’s visceral acquire is place-on for 2020. As extended as young ones are even now remaining born into a “lousy” environment, “West Aspect Story” should not be a trip down memory lane — it must be uncooked and actual.
By pushing back again towards what we keep in mind from the Oscar-winning 1961 film, a musical that lots of can recite line-by-line will become newly suspenseful and gripping. It is even now the “Romeo and Juliet”-encouraged tale of Tony (Isaac Powell) of the Jets gang, and Maria (Shereen Pimentel), the sister of the rival Sharks gang leader, Bernardo (Amar Ramasar). The pair satisfies during a dance at the gym and, at wonderful danger to on their own, tumble in really like. But each move in this properly-worn plot will come as a startling surprise, starting with the gangs on their own.
As we view during Leonard Bernstein’s booming “Prologue,” when a digital camera pans across the cast’s faces, the racially unique animus (Puerto Ricans as opposed to the Polish and Irish) is mainly long gone. It is even now there in Arthur Laurents’ reserve and Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics, but in an effort and hard work to replicate modern-day New York and its evolving conflicts, the casting is thoroughly assorted — and devastatingly youthful.
At first, van Hove’s eyesight can be discombobulating. Doc’s drugstore, a variety-of truce zone for the Sharks and Jets, has been turned from a friendly ’50s soda counter into a fluorescently lit corner bodega. A video clip digital camera explores the shop as if it’s an indie film set: Squint and you can place a can of Ajax in the back again. As the gangs make ideas for a fatal rumble, I couldn’t enable but consider of the horrific 2018 gang slaying of a 15-calendar year-outdated boy at a Bronx bodega. The complete manufacturing pulses with these relevance: Just hold out till you see the blood-soaked “Somewhere.”
Possibilities are, the closest you have arrive to seeing a manufacturing of this musical with no Robbins’ first moves is at a high college that couldn’t very nail them. But now we have Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s far more modern dances, which toss aside grace for youthful clumsiness and anger. There’s even now some Latin aptitude — the teenagers yell “mambo!” immediately after all, not “Isadora Duncan!” — but it’s not showstopping stuff.
What the considerably less-imposing dance and van Hove’s digital camera near-ups do is help richer people, primarily the youthful lovers. The remarkable Powell will make the most relocating, determined and emotionally turbulent Tony you are most likely to have seen. His golden-voiced “Maria” is Mountain Dew-inflected, with a teen’s strength and squirmy awkwardness, and the “Tonight” duet with his Maria, an influencing Pimentel, is a serene stunner. You can experience the show’s amped up angst as a result of Ramasar’s brooding Bernardo during the rainy rumble.
Revisionism is 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 most recent was Daniel Fish’s “Oklahoma!”, which pushed aside that show’s content spirit for judgy politics. But as weird and new as this “West Aspect Story” might appear, van Hove’s manufacturing has the utmost regard for the first.
It is even now the exhibit you really like, reinvented for the time in which you are living.