PLAY REVIEW: ‘West Side Story’ a tribute to former Belding teacher

By Lori Hansen • Last Updated 2:07 pm on Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Shark Women, led by Theresa Albert as Maria, sing “I Feel Pretty” in the Belding High School drama club’s version of “West Side Story.” — Daily News/Lori Hansen

If you go …
What: “West Side Story” presented by the Belding High School drama club
When: 7 p.m. tonight, Friday and Saturday
Where: Belding High School Auditorium
Tickets: $8 for side seats and $10 for center seats are available at Millie’s Restaurant or at the door

According to Riff, the turf isn’t much, but it is all the Jets have, and they want to hold on to it. They don’t want the Puerto Rican Sharks moving in.

Presented by the Belding High School drama club, “West Side Story” takes place in the mid-1950s and shows the rivalry between the two teenage street gangs. In the midst of the rivalry, Tony, from the Jets, crosses the racial barriers when he falls in love with Maria, part of the Sharks set.

The show opens tonight at 7 p.m. and runs through Saturday at the Belding High School Auditorium. Tickets are $8 for side seats and $10 for center seats and are available at the door or at Millie’s Restaurant in downtown Belding. It is nearly a 2-1/2 hour show, and may be too long for younger children.

“We chose this show for two reasons,” director Nickole Moayyer said. “We thought about doing ‘Singing in the Rain’ but did not have enough people with tap dance experience. ‘West Side Story’ didn’t need as much dance experience, yet still allowed a large number of kids to get involved.”

There are more than 50 in the cast, and others that work behind the scenes with lights, sound, set, costumes and more, totaling 75 students. Numerous adults assist with everything from the pit orchestra, make-up and program production.

“Also, David Turrill (who directed 41 shows in 20 years before his cancer diagnosis in 2006 and death in 2008) had always wanted to do it, but never did. This is a final tribute to him as this is the last show to be performed in this auditorium before we move into a new one in the fall,” Moayyer said.

The musical begins with a well-choreographed dance by the members of the Jets, including gymnastic flips and cartwheels by the talented Bret Priest, who plays Riff. The scene shows one of the five exquisite backdrop curtains that add depth and detail to the stage.

“We really like to limit the number of stage props. With this many people on stage, we need all the room we can get,” said Moayyer, “We use the drops to add to the scene without getting in the way.”

The Jets look for long-time member Tony, portrayed expressively by Nathan Huyck, in a strong debut on the stage.

Tony (Nathan Huyck) tries to convince both the Sharks and the Jets that they don’t need to rumble in “West Side Story,” presented tonight through Saturday at 7 p.m. by the Belding High School drama club. — Daily News/Lori Hansen

Tony is no longer interested in being a gang member, wanting a better future, but he is loyal to Riff and agrees to come to that evening’s dance where Riff will challenge the Sharks’ leader, Bernardo, played with strength by Antonio Yanez.

Bernardo’s girlfriend, Anita, portrayed confidently by Emily Sluiter, will bring Maria, who has recently arrived from Puerto Rico.

“This is a new beginning of my life,” says Maria, played charmingly by Theresa Albert, “I will go to the dance as a young lady of America.”

The dance scene is one of many that show the expansive number of costumes, with many characters having four or more costume changes.

The show features many soloists, along with duets, such as “Something’s Coming” sung by Tony and Riff, and “Tonight,” a love song between Tony and Maria. The Shark Women’s voices blend beautifully in “I Feel Pretty” highlighting the high sopranos.

The Jets Men are showcased in “Gee, Officer Krupke,” a comedic song with fast-paced choreography.
“West Side Story” is a well-rehearsed, well-done “Farewell to the Auditorium” finale.


Cast and Crew

Cast: Tony, Nathan Huyck; Maria, Theresa Albert; Bernardo, Antonio Yanez; Anita, Emily Sluiter; Riff, Bret Priest; Rosalia, Marissa Montero; Chino, Wangpol Polnawee; Anybodys, Ashley Salik; Diesel, Thom Walters; Graziella, Katie Groening; Velma, Gabi Hayes; Shrank, Katie Datema; Krupke, Kenny VanTimmeran; Doc, Izzi Rytlewski; Glad Hand, Trevor Davenport.
Shark men: Pepe, David Michalek; Anxious, Brandon Hoople; Moose, Joey Dillingham; Toro, Johnny Adame; Indio, Grant Steele; Luis, Paul Ostrander.
Shark women: Teresita, Micole Underwood; Consuela, Christy Gasper; Margarita, Emily Kunkle; Estella, Allie Granzo; Francisca, Megham Loser; and Natasha Depue, Nicolina Larsson, Sara Srupienko, Emilee Renucci.
Jets men: Big Deal, Nathan Mason; Tiger, Michael Rackham; Mouthpiece, Ryan Hill; A-Rab, Andrew Swider; Snowboy, Connor Tovey; Baby John, Connor Middlebrook.
Jets women: Minnie, Natalja Girod; Pauline, Emily Swider; Clarice, Liz Wittenbach; and Kate Ward, Alex VAnLoo, Kenzie Shattuck, Mallory Miller, Beth Mikek, Alyssa Ward and Katy VanTimmeran.
Chorus: Bradie Cooper, Tayler Reeves, Chelsea Price, Rachael Warner, Morgan Schumaker and Laura Thaxton.
Pit: Lu Pendleton, director; Michelle Felt, violin; Dorothy Oliver, violin; Grace Peterson, cello; Mark VanDerKolk, Bass guitar; Jean Hudson, woodwinds; Mary Palmer, woodwinds; Gary Wakenhut, woodwinds; Rachel Waringa, woodwinds; Jody Marvin, trumpet; Ryan Ruble, trumpet; Ann Royce, French horn; Troy Anderson,trombone; Julie Beckett, piano; Mark Dombroske, keyboard; Josh King, percussion; Joey Adame, percussion and Ryan White, percussion.
Crew: Nickole Moayyer, director; Mark Bozung, assistant and vocal director; Lu Pendleton, orchestra director; Lisa Ostrander and Julie Beckett, pianists; Joseph and Miranda Curry,  choreographers; Allis Granzo, Meghan Loser and Emily Sluiter, dance captains; Steve King, technical director; Lila King, parent team organizer; Austen Giles and Alex Brown, sound; Mitch Dykla and Tye Wittenbach, Lights; Hannah Mikek, curtain; Steve Mills, Donna Mills, Randy Loveland, Scott Ward, Mike VanLoo, Gabby Winwright, Miranda Dyer, Jimmy Conley and Kate Underwood.

Correspondent Lori Hansen is a Greenville-area resident.

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