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Classic love story comes alive on Centennial stage

The Baltimore Sun

Red lights slowly rise on a group of boys with their backs to the audience. Tension and anger are in the air. As another group of boys walk through wearing different colors, the first group "gallantly" lets them pass. This was the beginning of Centennial High School's West Side Story.

The Jets, a gang in New York City, are preparing to negotiate the terms for a rumble with the Sharks, a rival gang. They meet at a dance at the gym, where Tony, a Jet who just isn't as angry as he used to be, first lays eyes on Maria, the younger sister of the Sharks' leader. As their innocent love ensues, the mounting tension between the gangs finally explodes, and the ripple effects are tragic.

Centennial's set featured a wonderful mix of abstract scaffolding and detailed rooms, like Doc's and Maria's bedrooms. The set helped create a world that was both period and timeless for the cast, every one of whom understood the seriousness of the conflict and how the events affected their character as the story unfurled.

Ariel Flajnik had a lovely soprano voice and created a vibrant yet innocent Maria. Ryan Mercer did a wonderful job of singing the difficult part of Tony, and his chemistry with Flajnik was tangible.

Jen Jones was a spunky and strong Anita, and she knew when to be vulnerable, and seemed to have good instincts for what her character was supposed to be feeling as the plot advanced. Her dancing was memorable, especially in "America."

Mickey Albornoz had a great way of making Riff seamlessly switch from average teenage boy to dignified leader of the Jets. Tom McQuaid was an indignant and incensed Bernardo and had a wonderful on-stage relationship with Jones.

Josh Kudisch was simply remarkable as Action. His energy level was consistent throughout the show and he was always intensely focused and angry. His shining moment came in the song, "Gee, Officer Krupke."

The lighting -- always spot-on -- made easy transitions from intimate love songs to angry street scenes. The Centennial High Pit Band did a great job with the challenging score.

All in all, Centennial High School's production of West Side Story was a strong performance.

Molly Dillon, a student at Notre Dame Preparatory, reviewed "West Side Story" for the Cappies of Baltimore, a program in which students review high school productions under the direction of their teachers and vote on awards for outstanding performances.

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