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Stunning dance numbers and tightly choreographed fight scenes

I’m not sure how long this honeymoon feeling of returning to life as a theatergoer will last. That butterflies-in-the-belly, waiting-for-the-lights-to-go-out feeling just before the show starts. Right now, I tell myself that it’ll last forever. That I’ll never take for granted what I was—and all of you lovers of a good show done well were—lucky enough to enjoy until the past two years. That I’ll watch every show like it could be my last. Who knows if this feeling will last? I hope it does.

But I’ll tell you what…the cast and crew of Marriott Theatre’s West Side Story are putting on a production that shows that us theatergoers weren’t the only ones itching to get back to it, putting on a show like it could be their last.

That the production is Leonard Bernstein’s classic was a great choice. Its content, while still thought-provoking and fitting for our fractured world all these decades later, is also well-known, proven, comforting. We know what to expect, the cast and crew know what to do, and then we all hope it goes according to script.

It does here. The two leads, Lauren Maria Medina as Maria and Jake David Smith as Tony, are both very talented vocalists, comfortable with the challenging melodies Bernstein gives them. They play their parts, they sing their songs, they live their lives, as the Maria and Tony we as the audience want.

The roles of Anita and Bernardo, of course, won best supporting Oscars for the 1961 film version, and here they are filled by Vanessa Aurora Sierra and Gary Cooper. Sierra captured my attention whenever she was onstage, bringing not just the passion the role calls for but a real joy, too. Gary Cooper (that name!) brought physicality to Bernardo and the fight scenes, but matched Sierra in having that extra presence, too.

The ensemble—a highlight is the Shark Girls led by Sierra in a rousing, syncopated “America”—pulls off stunning dance numbers and tightly choreographed fight scenes, and does them well. And, like the four actors mentioned above, they give each of them that little something extra, that little bit of joy that just makes this a production to see and enjoy.

Because, like I said, West Side Story can certainly still make us think—still is making me think—socially, about what can be done to make life better. But West Side Story—done so well, now through March 27—also shows us how good life is, how good life can be. We have these beloved songs and characters, and we have such talented people like those in this cast and crew who will give that little bit more to live up to the material, who will play each show like it might be their last, and who, thank goodness, are still here to provide us grateful fans that feeling you get when you’re waiting for the lights to go out and for the show to start.