The SMUS production of West Side Story debuted this week at the McPherson Playhouse and our students astounded audiences with their mastery of complex choreography, vocals, acting skills and musical precision. Accompanied flawlessly by our student orchestra, the cast gave a compelling performance of a heart-wrenching tale.
Set in a city divided by two rival gangs of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, West Side Story follows Tony, who belongs to the Caucasian gang and falls in love with Maria, the sister of the leader of the Puerto Rican gang. Though originally set in 1950s, the SMUS production of West Side Story is slightly modernized.
As the romantic Tony, Vaughn Stokes gave a beautiful performance, lending his lovely voice to solo songs such as “Maria” as well as sweet duets with his Maria, played by Emily Reid. Soprano Emily Reid reached new heights and delivered spirited renditions of well-known songs, especially “I Feel Pretty.” In their roles as the star-crossed lovers, the two young actors created incredible chemistry.
As Tony’s best friend and the leader of the Jets, Andy Erasmus put his powerful vocal abilities to impressive use. A classical vocalist and opera singer, Andy not only managed to assume the posture and attitude of a rough and tumble gangster, but he also enjoyed a rare opportunity to dance, which he did brilliantly.
Playing Andy’s Shark counterpart was Samuel Simons, another classically-trained vocalist. In the role of Bernardo, Samuel was intimidating, an impressive feat standing up to Andy Erasmus, who is well over 6 feet tall. With a masterful accent, Samuel delivered each line and song right on key. As his girlfriend Anita, Rachael Baptiste captivated the audience in every scene with her remarkable vocals and a commanding stage presence.
The entire cast should be commended for an excellent performance, including some incredibly intricate choreography and challenging vocal numbers. Also deserving of much praise is our student orchestra, who played an extremely challenging score to near perfection. The stage crew was swift and professional and were a huge part of the production’s success.