All reviews are written by Cappies student critics and edited by Cappies adult mentors prior to publishing.

Maggie Solo, a student at West Potomac High School reviews “West Side Story”, performed by South County Secondary School , as part of The Cappies Critics and Awards Program .

Two cultures, both alike in dignity,

Pictured - L to R: (Back) Rachel Epstein, Rachel Snare, Kathryn Moore (Anita), Danica Abarquez, London Docherty, Cara Bachman; (Front) Kathy Oh (Jennifer Sparks)

In fair "Manhattan," where we lay our scene,

From "racial" grudge break to new mutiny,

Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.

"Something's Coming" as South County High School closes its theatre season with a bang with "West Side Story,” where two star-crossed lovers smolder in forbidden passion.


The story beloved by the masses opened on Broadway in 1957 and made a splash with several Tony nominations. Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, music by Leonard Bernstein and book by Arthur Laurents, “West Side Story” tells the story of two rival gangs:  the Jets, All-American boys under their commander Riff, and the Sharks, Puerto-Rican immigrants led by Bernardo. Maria, young sister of Bernardo, and Tony, best friend and lieutenant to Riff, find love across a crowded dance hall. Following the Romeo and Juliet plot line, there is love, laceration and, perhaps most importantly, loss.

Although there were moments when some actors lacked characterization, the ensemble was generally energetic and an asset to the familiar storyline. The Jets really shined in the number “Gee, Officer Krupke” led by Jack Gereski as Action, the boys gave an entertaining performance with a polished dance number and great humor. In the poignant “Somewhere” ensemble member Martina San Diego pulled all the heart-strings with spectacular vocal control. Though some dances were unsynchronized, the ensemble as a whole remained in character throughout the show.

Dean Maldonato and Whitney Turner (Tony and Maria, respectively) took on the momentous task of portraying the true, unbridled affection as well as emotional perplexity of injury and loss. Maldonato showed his vocal prowess in “Maria,” with strong dynamism when he would “say it soft” it was “almost like praying”! Turner’s voice was, by all means impeccable, with beautiful vibrato and the ability to turn heads when she opened her mouth to sing. The pair really impressed with “Tonight,” bringing much sincerity to the classic song that speaks to their passion after one dance, one conversation, at the end of one night.

Crowd favorite Nikko Custodio as Riff easily stood out with flawless vocals and spectacular dance moves. His aerial abilities in “Jet Song” and excellent form in the “Somewhere” ballet with partner Shannon Clark as Velma dazzled. Custodio was also very strong musically in “Cool” holding the attention of all the ensemble members on stage as well as the audience. Kathryn Moore gave an entertaining performance as hot tamale Anita. Her alto voice was haunting after the loss of her Bernardo in “A Boy Like That/I Have A Love” as she played against Maria. Both supporting actors helped to move not the dual story-lines of the piece forward, taking an active role in the gang side as well as the relationship of Tony and Maria.

Lighting and Sound designed by Meghan Gasztonyi and Alex Hargitt respectively were crucial to the success of the show. Throughout the show, there were minimal technical difficulties, allowing the audience to focus on the action on stage. Lighting effects after the “Rumble” added to the intensity of the moment, using a visible cue to match the sirens made character heat palpable. Costumes by Mariah Kahn fit the period consistently, using tones to distinguish one gang from the other, while dressing neutral parties in neutral tones also gave a nice effect as far their character.

“West Side Story” is perhaps the quintessential American musical and a huge undertaking for any high school ensemble, but South County Secondary School triumphed in showing that “somewhere, there’s a place for us”!