Review: West Side Story

West Side Story; 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday; $12-$25. Woodland Opera House, 340 Second Street in Woodland; (530) 666-9617; Through May 1.
Rated 4.0

The Jets gang exploded onto the Woodland Opera House stage for the opening number of West Side Story, directed by Angela Baltezore with musical direction by Dean Mora.

This is a testosterone-driven chorus, with impeccable choreography by Staci Arriaga and exceptional vocals with the assistance of vocal director James Glica-Hernandez.

This latter-day Romeo and Juliet tale features 10 newcomers to the Woodland company in its 28-member cast. Particularly outstanding are Donovan McNeely as Riff, the leader of the Jets; Kevin Gruwell as Bernardo, the leader of the rival Sharks; and Daniel Silva as Action, Riff’s right-hand man.

Newcomer Giana Gambardella is sweet and innocent as the sister of Bernardo, newly arrived from Puerto Rico, whose wide-eyed love at first sight for Tony (Joshua Wheeler) is as believable as her pain at the tragic events to follow.

Also new to Woodland is Christina Castro as Bernardo’s girlfriend Anita, a woman whose fiery temperament infuses her every move. She’s a wonderful addition to the cast.

Wheeler, while a good Tony, is sadly not up to the caliber of the other men in the show. His energy seemed low and his vocals, which displayed a polished voice, did not have the same level of passion as his fellow players.

Overall, however, this is an excellent production that boasted a near full house on opening night.