5 reasons to see La Comedia Dinner Theatre’s ‘West Side Story’

La Comedia Dinner Theatre’s impressive production of “West Side Story” upholds the show’s pedigree as a brilliant, powerful and relevant musical theatre classic.

Librettist Arthur Laurents, composer Leonard Bernstein and lyricist Stephen Sondheim’s riveting depiction of turf war in New York City circa 1957 takes its societal cue from Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” The heart-tugging romance between doomed lovebirds Tony and Maria will always be a firm foundation, but the compelling layers of bigotry, grievance, abandonment, angst and mistrust raging among their close circle of family and friends truly bolsters the drama.

Fluidly spearheaded by director/choreographer Chris Beiser with ample respect to original conceiver/director/choreographer Jerome Robbins, here are five reasons to see “West Side Story,” which continues through May 5.



1. Passionate duo Marco Giacona and Stephanie Garcia

Fantastic tenor Marco Giacona and lovely soprano Stephanie Garcia are a passionate pair whose palpable chemistry keeps the story emotionally grounded.

Giacona, an astute musical theatre performer who leans into lyrics with expressive clarity, possesses a wonderful charisma that pulsates throughout “Something’s Coming” and radiates to the hilt when proclaiming the joys of “Maria.”

Garcia, tapping into her inner Natalie Wood, portrays Maria with confident self-assurance, often tipping the seductive power within Tony and Maria’s relationship in her direction. When Tony tells Maria he’ll do whatever she wants following the tragic rumble, I actually believed it.

Vocally, they beautifully blend in “Tonight” and “One Hand, One Heart,” and Garcia’s delightful rendition of “I Feel Pretty” receives humorous assistance from Brianna Saavedra (Consuela), Valerie Salcedo (Rosalia) and Julianna Cauterucci (Francisca).



2. The Jets and Sharks believably at war

Following on the heels of “Guys and Dolls,” La Comedia assembles another top-notch male ensemble. With masculine grace and focused ferocity, these Jets and Sharks are believably at war from the balletic outset.

The atmospheric urgency within Laurents’ script tilts toward the Jets so I must first commend Baylor Browning (Riff), Allyn Bessee (Diesel), Jordan Thomas Burnett (Action), Jarrett R. Crowthers (Baby John), Riley Vogel (Snowboy) and Laurel Dobrozsi (Anybodys) for creating a very cohesive brotherhood. Browning, convincingly establishing Riff as Tony’s protector, winningly leads the terrifically precise physicality of “Cool,” one of Beiser’s standout routines. In addition, I thoroughly enjoyed Bessee elevating Diesel’s leadership qualities as Riff’s right-hand man, and Burnett’s playful comedic instincts propel “Gee, Officer Krupke.”

The Sharks are equally bonded with Elihu Guerrero smoothly in control as flashy Bernardo opposite Luka Ashley Carter (Pepe), Anthony J. Contreras (Luis), M. Javi Harnly (Quique), Marco Puente (Indio) and Kyle Vasquez (a perfectly coy and loyal Chino).

Fury aside, each group meaningfully unites for the “Somewhere” dream sequence featuring Salcedo’s beautiful rendition of Bernstein and Sondheim’s gorgeous ballad.

3. Tina DeAlderete’s alluring Anita

In a welcomed return to the Dayton region, Tina DeAlderete brings fabulous flair to her mature, emotional and expertly danced portrayal of Anita, whose devotion to Maria is shattered by a cruel act of sexual assault (a moment that could’ve been more defined and disturbing than depicted here). DeAlderete is dynamic and sassy in “America,” receives scintillating center stage treatment for “Tonight Quintet,” and fills “A Boy Like That” with superb anger, disappointment and drama.

4. Solid authority figures caught in the middle

Colin Cranstoun (Officer Krupke/Glad Hand), Ed Iverson (Lieutenant Schrank) and Mark Reuter (Doc) are excellently authoritative. As the Jets and Sharks attempt to rule the roost, Iverson, the cruelest Schrank I’ve ever seen, and Reuter, marking his 30th La Comedia production as the disheartened drug store proprietor concerned about Tony’s future, particularly render perspectives that sting and scold with absorbing weight.

5. Everything old is new again

Don’t be shocked by the crudeness of Lieutenant Schrank shouting “immigrant scum.” Laurents’ script, peppered with ‘50s slang, is rooted in 1957, but many sentiments reflect the division happening in 2024, particularly issues of immigration and unease about The Other. So, as America’s electoral temperature rises from now until November, try to heed Riff’s advice: keep cool, real cool. And vote.


What: “West Side Story”

Where: La Comedia Dinner Theatre, 765 W. Central Ave., Springboro

When: Through May 5; Thursday, Friday and Sunday matinees and Thursday-Sunday evenings.

Cost: $70-$79; $39 for kids 11 and younger

More info: 937-746-4554 or lacomedia.com

Right Now with Russell spotlights arts and entertainment news every Friday and as news arises. From the latest in local arts to the latest in film, music, TV, theater, awards season and other hot button topics, the goal is to fill you in on what’s new in order to satisfy your entertainment cravings. He can be reached at Russell.Florence@coxohio.com.

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