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A Winning West Side Story at Engeman Theater

Victoria Casillo, Tori Simeone,Samantha Williams and Ashley Perez Flanagan. Photo by Michael Decristofaro.

The Shark girls: Victoria Casillo, Tori Simeone, Samantha Williams as Maria, and Ashley Perez Flanagan. Photo by Michael Decristofaro.

West Side Story wows audiences with a top-notch cast who bring this tearful, tragic story to life at The John W. Engeman Theater in Northport village. The well-known score by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim, widely regarded as one of the best ever written, has some of the most memorable songs, including “I Feel Pretty,” and “America.” Jeffry Denman’s choreography for this production is outstanding, particularly the dances  in the neighborhood scenes with the Jets and Sharks, as well as in “America,” “Cool,” and “The Rumble.”

West Side Story’s book is by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein, and  lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Returning to Engeman is director Igor Goldin, who also directed The Producers, Evita, The Music Man, Twelve Angry Men, and South Pacific. Other credits include: Off-Broadway productions of Yank!, With Glee, A Ritual of Faith, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and Crossing Swords.

The score is once again magically performed by musical director James Olmstead (Engeman: A Chorus Line, Evita, Music Man, A Christmas Story, White Christmas, South Pacific) on keyboard, and the band with Craig Coyle on keyboard; Robert Dalpiaz and Joel Levy on reeds; Joe Boardman, Steve Henry and Pete Auricchio on trumpets; Brent Chiarello and Frank Hall on trombone; Russell Brown on bass; and Josh Endlich on percussion.

Tears and tragedy abound in West Side Story, which is set in New York City in 1957 in the middle of a war between two rival gangs: The Puerto Rican Sharks and the white Jets. Of course, Tony, a former Jets member and friend of Jets leader Riff, falls in love with the sister of Bernardo, the leader of the Sharks, and fuels all the frustration of the rivalry between them as they struggle for control of the neighborhood.

The Jets. Photo by Michael Decristofaro.

The Jets. Photo by Michael Decristofaro.

The magnificent cast at Engeman is convincing with a riveting chemistry between the leads of Maria and Tony, brilliantly played by Samantha Williams and Zach Trimmer. Also, equally engaging, is the energy between Bernardo, lead Shark, and his girlfriend Anita, played by Nikko Kimzin and electrifying Karli Dinardo. The fabulous and fun, stand-out dance sequences are memorable in their intensity and enjoyable to watch.

The familiar love story, between two people who aren’t supposed to fall in love, inevitably ends in disaster. Along the way we meet the amazing Sam Wolf who plays Jets leader Riff and who definitely leads the way with great talent in this production. Also of note is the highly talented Ashley Pérez Flanagan, who plays Shark girl Rosalia, and has a beautiful solo in “Somewhere,” and a memorable part in “America.”

Trimmer, who is impressive as the charming Tony, appeared on Broadway in The Bard-y Bunch. Other credits include National Tours & Regional: Hairspray, Avenue Q, Gypsy  West Side Story , South Pacific, La Cage aux  FollesGrease, The  Fantasticks.

Williams, who lends her beautiful soprano voice to three duets with Trimmer–“Tonight,” “One Hand, One Heart,” and “Somewhere”–has played Anne in A Little Night Music, Claudia in Nine, Cinderella in Into the Woods, and Rose in Street Scene.

Samantha Williams & Zach Trimmer as Maria and Tony. Photo by Michael Decristofaro.

Samantha Williams & Zach Trimmer as Maria and Tony. Photo by Michael Decristofaro.

The amazing dancing energy of Dinardo (Anita) returns to Engeman Theater after appearing in The Music Man. Credits include the national tour of Flashdance, The Musical as Alex Owens, and Off-Broadway: Revolution In The Elbow. Other Credits: 42nd Street, The Pajama Game.

Wolf as Riff  has Regional credits in  Saturday Night Fever, Carrie, Xanadu,  Les Misérables,  Merry Wives of Windsor,  Guys & Dolls, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson,  Grease,  Footloose. TV: “ The Mysteries of Laura.”

The mesmerizing Kimzin (Bernardo, leader of the Sharks) has the following credits that include National Tours and Regional: Ritchie Valens in Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, The King and I, La Cage Aux Folles, Chino in West Side Story and My Fairytale.

And the ensemble cast, and its wonderful dance ability in many scenes, includes: Mike Baerga, Josh Bates, Christian Bufford, Mark T. Cahill, Nick Casaula, Victoria Casillo, Joey Dippel, Jon Drake, Ashley Perez Flanagan, Roy Flores, Eric Greengold, Joan Heeringa, Melissa Hunt, Gregory Kollarus, Leer Leary, Rick Malone, Ashley Marinelli, Kelly Methven, Kaitlin Niewoehner, Joseph Rosario, Scott Shedenhel, Tori Simeone, and Marquez Stewart.

West Side Story plays from now through November 8, 2015, with the following performance schedule: Thursdays at 8:00 p.m., Fridays at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. Some Wednesday and Sunday evenings are available. Tickets are $74 on Saturday evenings, $69 all other performances and may be purchased by calling (631) 261-2900, going online at EngemanTheater.com, or by visiting the Engeman Theater Box Office at 250 Main Street, Northport.

 

 

 

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