West Side Story sizzles

By Elaine Hyde | May 5, 2019

Lyric’s Opera’s coproduction of West Side Story delivers such a punch, that it’s love at first sight, and not just for Maria and Tony.

Internationally acclaimed opera and theatre director, Francesca Zambello, successfully recaptures the ‘wow factor’ in the retelling of Romeo and Juliet’s story, set in the back streets of New York.

Lyric Opera Chicago West Side Story. Todd Rosenberg Photography 2019

The nearly 100 cast members and musicians light up the show. West Side Story is a thoroughly immersive spectacle with captivating performances by Broadway star Corey Cott as Tony and rising star Mikaela Bennett as Maria. The talent of Brett Thiele as Riff, Amanda Castro as Anita, Manuel Stark Santos as Bernardo, and Adam Soniak who plays Action, authentically portray the complexities of friendship, loyalty and love.

As the characters tumble head first towards the “rumble”, we are taken on a musical journey with iconic songs like “Tonight”, “America”, “I feel Pretty” and “Maria” that display the talent of the Lyric Opera Chorus and Orchestra, conducted by James Lowe.

Lyric Opera Chicago West Side Story. Todd Rosenberg Photography 2019

Raw and edgy, the scene is powerfully set by the two gangs sparring against a steel punctuated backdrop of New York City. The famous ‘balcony’ is obvious, and meaningfully painted red, with colorful costumes contrasting against a grey background.

Arguably, the dance-off was invented in West Side Story and choreographer Jerome Robbins artfully blends tough-guy athleticism with the sauciness of Anita, played by Amanda Castro, who’s authentic and spicy performance stole the show.

West Side Story will leave audiences spellbound and reasserts the enduring potential of the story of star struck lovers.


Lyric Opera’s West Side Story is a coproduction with Houston Grand Opera and Glimmerglass Festival. Performances run through June 2.

Lyric Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago. Tickets start at $29 and can be purchased at lyricopera.org/wss or by calling 312-827-5600.

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