The familiar opening notes of West Side Story rise in a percussion-piano duet, jazzier and with more edge than the Broadway version. The evening’s prelude transitions into a probing, vibrating, and emotional “Maria” which saxophonist Michael Hernandez stunningly performs with pianist Keisuke Nakagoshi. In the meantime, high above a statue of Venus who is taking a break from her podium to read a fashion magazine, museum-goers in 1950’s attire gaze at art. As the music becomes more discordant with the sax dueling and clashing with clarinets and flute, this Venus (Steffi Cheong) comes to life with movements displaying an urgent searching and a reaching for something out there as if to discover who she really is. But as the discords become ever more abrupt, her struggles succumb to resuming her position as an armless statute of female beauty, just in time for museum-goers to arrive to view her.
|Krista Wigle, Andres Ramirez & Bradley Kynard|
As Rose and Sam proceed through their day and evening, a trio that one might have found in a Reno nightclub in the ‘50s sings in the role of a Greek chorus, painting a picture of the ideal life of “Sur-bur-i-a,” using the same note pattern this is reminiscent of Bernstein’s “New York, New York” from On the Town. Soprano Krista Wigle, tenor Andres Ramirez, and baritone Bradley Kynard scat nonsensically, “Skid a lit day, skid a lit day … ratty boo.” They also describe how “morning sun kisses” the little white houses, their driveways, and their flagstones on front lawns in the suburbs of places like Scarsdale, Shaker Heights, Highland Park, and Beverley Hills (along with other named, very white, and very upscale ‘burbs of the ‘50s). Bernstein has given their musical interludes the sound and feel of TV/radio commercials, all accentuated again by the incredible tongue-in-cheek humor of Mr. Murakami’s projections.