West Side Story

If you've ever come across a letter or diary entry written by a younger version of a parent or grandparent, a whole new window into that person opens up, humanizing them in a way that may otherwise have seemed impossible. This touring production of the 2009 Broadway revival does the same for Jerome Robbins' musical set in 1950s New York and loosely adapted from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Not only are the members of the Jets and Sharks more menacing, libidinous and raw, but large portion of Laurents' book and Stephen Sondheim's lyrics have been translated into Spanish, rounding out the sabor of the Puerto Rican characters and taking them beyond caricature and stereotype. In a sense, this production could be considered more faithful to Robbins' original vision than any to date. David Saint's crisply paced direction crescendos at the appropriate moments without spilling over into brassy Broadway-gasms, and James Youmans' "industrial minimalism" design features strong diagonals accentuated by Howell Binkley's angular lighting. The delicately powerful soprano of Ali Ewoldt (Maria) plays well against the resonant baritone of Kyle Harris (Tony), and both are skillfully utilized by musical director John O'Neill, who holds the musical numbers close to the brink of a climax without providing a release until the last possible moment. And though their contributions are more theatrical than vocal, Mike Boland (Krupke) and Christopher Patrick Mullen (Lt. Schrank) serve as the menacing long arm of the law, instead of the stooges they're often played as. As a result, the overriding authenticity of the piece keeps this classic as dangerous, edgy and relevant as ever. Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m. (through Dec. 19); holiday schedule (Dec. 21–Jan. 2): Tues.-Wed., 8 p.m.; Thurs., 2 & 8 p.m.; Fri. 2 p.m.; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m. (800) 982-2787, BroadwayLA.org.
Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m.; Tuesdays, Wednesdays, 8 p.m.; Thursdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Fridays, 2 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Starts: Nov. 30. Continues through Jan. 2, 2010