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[Jake David] Smith’s chemistry on stage with Lauren Maria Medina is magical

Marriott Theatre brings to their stage a musical that was nominated for six Tony Awards, including Best Musical, West Side Story. This 50’s multiracial love story with racial tension, prejudice, and violence inspired by William Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet is set in the upper west side of Manhattan where we meet two rival gangs, the Jets and the Sharks.

The Jets, a Polish teen gang led by Riff, scrabble with a gang of immigrant boys from Puerto Rico, the Sharks, led by Bernardo. Bernardo and his boys hate the Jets, who never accepted them as Americans, and Riff boys hate the Sharks for coming to America.

The intensity builds when at a school dance, Tony, a former member of the Jets and best friend of Riff, is smitten with the beautiful Maria, the sister of Bernardo. Unfortunately, Tony and Maria are blissfully naive to the dynamics of prejudice caused by the interracial mingling, and Bernardo is totally against his sister falling for the first gringo she sees.

Thrust into the same neighborhood and school, this never-ending battle between Polish and Puerto Rican teens culminates with one night that will kill the love shared between two unexpected teens.

Marriott Theatre’s stage doesn’t allow for the glamorous or picturesque background settings seen recently at Lyric Opera of Chicago, West Side Story. However, the storyline theme of the play is still evident through this two hours and thirty-six-minute production. You could feel the buzz and excitement that night in the audience, which seemed to have been family and friends shouting, clashing, and cheering throughout; that withstanding West Side Story was an entertaining performance...

Making a debut at Marriott Theatre is Jake David Smith, who resembles a young Tom Cruise plays the young protagonist, Tony. Smith is acquainted with this role, playing Tony at the performing arts theater in New London Barn Playhouse in New Hampshire. Smith’s chemistry on stage with Lauren Maria Medina is magical, as you could feel the love between them.

After meeting Tony, Lauren Maria Medina, who plays Maria, an adolescent girl, becomes a woman who has her love at first sight experience. Medina was amazing as Maria and with a beautiful operatic voice that hasn’t fully matured, but you should be seeing her at Lyric Opera of Chicago soon. Gary Copper, Vanessa Aurora Sierra, Drew Redington, and Lance Baker as the racist policeman and a few of the names in a cast of 29 members. It was good to see Matt DeCaro, a familiar face to theatergoers and television, recently played Big Daddy in 2018 at The Drury Lane Theatre, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

The famous songs, Tonight, America, Cool and Somewhere (There’s A Place For Us) and I Feel Pretty, with Maria and the Shark girls, are entertaining, but, Gee, Officer Krupke performed by the Jets was hilarious. But, West Side Story pivots around Tony and Maria, and it’s the scenes where they come together singing and revealing their young, innocent love surrounded by the hostility of two groups of adolescents fighting for respect that provides the most joy...