By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
The most exciting performers in Lyric's West Side Story, it turns out, are not even the leads but the supporting players, many of them making their professional theater debuts. In local auditions last spring, director Dale found skilled dancers the right age (under 20) and physique (muscles for the men, curves for the women) to execute Robbins' tough moves. Lili Froehlich as Anybodys, the Jets' rough-and-tumble tomboy, acts subtly but dances audaciously. Brett Quine as Baby John, Harry Nathan Feril as Diesel and Meghan Fluker as Minnie—these are high school students carrying off choreography that seasoned Broadway gypsies find difficult to master. The Jets' crazy-tense performance of the pre-rumble "Cool" is the most thrilling dance sequence in any show in Dallas so far this year.
Only one part of West Side Story is a throwback to those formulaic Broadway shows of the 1940s and early '50s, but it's still one of the show's high points. "Somewhere," the second-act dream ballet, allows Tony, Maria and the others to dance out their desire to relive childhood with colorblind innocence. At Lyric, swathes of pale, silky fabric unfurl from the rafters as the pretty young dancers run and skip through Robbins' steps, which he adapted from street games like Red Rover and Crack the Whip. The dancers appear to float above the floor, light as zephyrs, just before the music turns dark and ominous again and they're snapped back to reality.
Part modern opera, part punk ballet, in moments like this, West Side Story feels as classic as the Shakespeare that inspired it, and yet remarkably fresh and wild.