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Match Play is a golf/suspense novel. Dust of Autumn is a bloody one set in upstate New York. Prairie View is set in South Dakota, with a final scene atop Rattlesnake Butte. Life in the Arbor is a children's book about Rollie Rabbit and his friends (on about a fourth grade level). The Black Widow involves an elaborate extortion scheme. Doggy-Dog World is my memoir. And ES3 is a description of my method for examining English sentence structure.
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Wednesday, October 28

West Side Story at ABT

Anyone who’s been a sports fan for the last thirty or forty years knows how most of the games have developed, evolved. This is especially true of basketball and football, not so much of baseball. Newer, better equipment accounts for some of that change, but most of it is simply that athletes are now better, bigger, faster than ever before. The same might be true of musical theater. Not that those on stage are bigger or faster, but they certainly seem to be better—better singers, better dancers. We just saw the Arizona Broadway Theatre’s production of West Side Story which admirably demonstrated the truth of what I just said. West Side Story first appeared on Broadway in 1957, fifty-eight years ago, with Carol Lawrence as Maria, Larry Kert as Tony, and Chita Rivera as Anita. From what I remember of both the Broadway version as well as the movie that came out in 1961, ABT’s version was better on almost all counts. The voices of the three principals were better than the voices of the originals, especially when you consider that Natalie Wood, who played Maria in the film, was voice-dubbed by Marni Nixon for all her songs. Eat your heart out, Chita Rivers; Melissa Rapelje was better as Anita—in voice, in dance, in looks. Larry Kert may have been a good Tony in 1957, but Jesse Michels was better vocally with a pure, powerful tenor that soared on “Maria.” And Brittany Santos as Maria came out about even with Carol Lawrence in voice and looks. I keep banging a bass drum for this local dinner theatre here in the Valley, about how it’s gotten better and better with each season, with each production, with each performance. Well, here I go again. Every theatrical aspect of their West Side Story was superlative. The lighting and set design was original and effective, with a surprising trio of drugstore stools in one set. Where in the world did they find these dinosaurs? Thank you, Jim Hunter, for your theatrical imagination. Thank you, James May, musical director of that wondrous 8-piece pit band that somehow managed to get through the complex Leonard Bernstein score without a hitch. And thank you, Kurtis Overby, for giving us a delightfully difficult balletic choreography for this show. I can’t believe that any dance company anywhere in the country could have done it better. I also believe that Leonard Bernstein, God rest his soul, and Stephen Sondheim would both agree that this production did them proud. There, enough drum banging. Now I can’t wait to see ABT’s Carousel in January. Sorry, Jan Clayton (on stage) and Shirley Jones (in film), sorry, John Rait (on stage) and Gordon MacRae (in film), they’ll probably find a better Julie Jordan and Billy Bigelow for the ABT production.
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