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Audience members praise live orchestra, choreography and students’ voices after performances of ‘West Side Story’

Cast members of "West Side Story" dance on the stage with their partners

Community members, staff and students gathered at the McKay Auditorium to watch the production of “West Side Story” put on by BYU–Hawaii. According to Aaron Densley, the director of the show, the orchestra pit opened for the first time in 10 years because the school hired a live orchestra for the show.

Students shared how the voices of Ralph Mallapre and Nalani Matthias, who play the leads of Tony and Maria, blew them away when they started to sing, and how the enthusiasm within the ensemble characters brought the musical to life.

Anna Rogers, a freshman from Utah studying business marketing, said, “Nalani, who plays Maria, is unbelievable, and Bridget, who plays Big Deal is so fun to watch on stage. [She] was so animated and in character. I loved it.”

Marla Chinbold was seen with glassy eyes after the production’s conclusion. “The characters were so engaging and well presented. It makes me feel like I am a part of their life. I really love the Tony and Maria love story. It made me cry, and it was very touching,” shared the junior from Mongolia who is studying business management.

Community member Malele Fonoimoana from Laie, expressed his love for “West Side Story,” the Broadway production, as well as the iconic 1961 movie. “The people who performed in the original ‘West Side Story’ were iconic Broadway performers. I love that our very humble program is able to produce something at this level.”

There was also praise for the live orchestra, an element of the production those in attendance said made the performance lively.

Brec Jorgensen, a sophomore from Utah studying music, commented on how the live orchestra was a character in its own right. “I really enjoyed the live orchestra. I thought they did a good job. The enthusiasm was high, and the energy was hot. I thought the cast enjoyed the show, and I enjoyed watching them.”

Rogers agreed, “They all have such amazing voices, and they worked well together as a cast to make a really good sound.”

Densley noted in the program the many elements that helped make the show a success. “With the hire of an incredibly talented choreographer, we hope you are transported to a world of intense emotions, where fear, hate, ownership and love drive the narrative.”

Densley also addressed the audience in his note there would be no cuts or edits made to the original production, “Due to the nature of the production and our contractual obligations, you will be viewing this project in its entirety.

“The students have put in hours and hours of work to bring this story to life, to tell of how love can always transcend hate.”

The last production of “West Side Story” will be on Saturday, March 7 at 7:30 p.m. in the McKay Auditorium.