Photo by Michele Anliker, courtesy Encore Musical Theatre Company.
Encore Musical Theatre Company has a beautiful production of West Side Story that opened tonight and you should order your tickets now. It is unlike anything you have seen in their space before and it’s a summer must-see.
For the first time, that elevated crosswalk in back is gone and the stage has been extended, affording more room for this monster of a musical that looks wonderful on Sarah Tanner’s set. It is also the first time I have seen light and colors used like this in an Encore show. Beautiful work by Dustin D Miller. The usual great costume work of Sharon Larkey Urick and wonderful propwork by Anne Donevan are also on display.
It’s hard to pull out specific performances when you have such an outstanding ensemble cast, correctly age-cast and diverse in nature. However, you will most likely never forget Conor Jordan as Tony and Aurora Penepacker as Maria. Individually they are remarkable, together they raise the production into the world of theater magic.
Also noteworthy is Matthew Brennan’s excellent choreography and Dan Cooney’s intimate direction. Scenes you’ve seen dozens of times resonate differently here. The choreography is firmly based in the world of classic musical theater dance and it looks fantastic.
Tyler Driskill’s musical direction and orchestra are tight and sound fantastic. The penultimate Act 1 number Tonight reprise is glorious choral work.
I have to say I approached WSS with some trepidation because it’s a musical I love and I’ve seen it so many times on large proscenium stages with its original choreography and comfortable predictable scene blocking. I shouldn’t have worried because the production on display at Encore is one of the all-around finest you are likely to see.
Very Highest Recommendation.
West Side Story continues through August 12th at Encore Musical Theatre Company, 3126 Broad Street, Dexter MI — tickets online at theencoretheatre.org or 734-268-6200
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