During the first night of sold-out performances, Montclair State’s production of “West Side Story” proudly solidifies the campus slogan “It’s All Here.”
Julia Langlois, whose big sister Anna Langlois plays the female lead role “Maria,” loved the show entirely. Lori Langlois, their aunt, watched her niece perform for the first time with tremendous amazement, explaining that she was “in awe” of her beautiful voice.
From the magnificent set design, to the instrumentals produced from three orchestras, to the florescent-colored dresses worn by the Sharks women, “West Side Story” surpassed my expectations. The energy that these young, talented performers exerted from the Kasser Theater stage was impeccable, leaving me in tears at the finale. The choreography was perfect, complete with synchronized fights, twirls and lifts.
Costume designer Samantha LaScala revealed some key details within her creative process: “Since this show takes place in the 1950s, making sure to respect this era’s rules was very important to me. When shopping for the women in the cast, I went to vintage online shops. Since measurements were so different, I needed to cross-reference the measurements I had to make sure they fit into the dresses that worked with what I had rendered. When I wasn’t shopping online at vintage stores, I was in Montclair State’s costume stock pulling options that I thought might work for certain characters. When stock didn’t have anything, I went back online to buy pants, dress shirts and shoes that worked perfectly for the actors.”
LaScala explained that one of her favorite—and earliest—purchases were the “Dance at the Gym” shoes for the women, which she purchased from a wholesale store based in China. “What I needed to purchase were ballroom shoes,” she said. “Ballroom heels are very flexible, have a sturdy heel, and have suede on the bottom for ideal dancing. This show is quite dance heavy so these shoes had to be perfect for dancing. In order to make sure the color of the shoes worked, I bought them all in white satin. Once the shoes came in, we painted the shoes with a special dye to match perfectly to the assigned dresses.”
Another moment I found unforgettable was when Alex Carr, who plays the male lead “Tony,” sang “Maria” in Act I. Carr sang the ballad flawlessly and with so much emotion and power, that it could have made every girl in the audience swoon over him with glee.
Randy Mugleston, chair of the Department of Theater and Dance, who was sitting to my left, said that all of the costume, lighting and sound designs were composed by Montclair State students. Mugleston expressed how everyone did a great job in producing a top-notch, age-appropriate show.
As I closely viewed one of musical theater’s timeless classics, I realized how much “West Side Story” transcends the stage and resonates with what is going on in the world today. I also recognized the impact “West Side Story” has on younger generations, as I sat near twelve and thirteen-year-old students from Renaissance Performing Arts and Glenn Field Middle School. This musical will always be one of my favorites. The cast, crew and everyone else who provided their talents to the production made me infatuated with it even more.