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No one epitomizes the pouty, sultry, fiery Puerto Rican moll better than Danielle Philapil as Maria’s brother Bernardo’s girlfriend, Anita. Philapil is deliciously devastating whenever she withers an adversary with an arched eyebrow, a sassy retort and a dismissive shake of her curvy figure. Both Josiah Frampton as Jets leader Riff and Jorge Diaz as his Sharks counterpart, Bernardo, bring a level of street cred to their roles, and both are surprisingly lithe dancers, especially Frampton, who might have some ballet training in his background.

Two young performers also stand out even in a cast of mostly adults: Tousle-haired Luke Arnold as A-Rab, one of the Jets, and red-haired, pigtailed pipsqueak Katie Maupin as the tomboy Anybodys, who has a secret hideout where she becomes privy to lots of gang secrets, It’s unfortunate that a couple of veteran actors overact and mug their way through their scenes, especially Marty Lee Jones as teal ballet shoes Lt, Shrank, as well as Shawn Bender as his rather nondescript sidekick Office Krupke, Erica Wyman Abrahamson’s efficient direction keeps the story moving along at warp speed, and although there are multiple scene changes, they, too, are very quick..

Of course, “West Side Story” is nothing without Bernstein’s incredible musical score, and music director Rick Reynolds does his best with a medium-sized orchestra, augmenting it with synthesizer keyboard riffs and some recorded passages. A shoutout goes to Michael Veizades for his drumming (especially in “Cool” where the dancers snap their fingers in juxtaposition to the drummer’s beats), which adds a needed vibrancy to several songs. Kudos also to fight choreographer Zoe Swenson-Graham, who was able to make the street fights – even when knives were used – look genuine and frightening.

Ting Na Wang created a background setting that is dark and foreboding, with a metal second story and ladder steps for all the climbing, jumping and leaping, an accessible balcony to Maria’s bedroom window plus the exterior of Doc’s Drugstore, Later, when the drugstore opens and the Jets and their girlfriends go there to flirt, drink Coke and dance, the stage lights up, In fact, most of the scenes happen right there — or outside on the street in front of the drugstore, So many of the songs transcend generations, ethnicities, social strata and gender because they are timeless and indelible: There’s Tony’s joyful, love-filled “Maria” with the smitten Tony singing, twirling and jumping with glee; the energetic, optimistic “Tonight,” sung with anticipation by so many of the leads as well as by the rival gangs; Maria’s ecstatic paean to budding love, “I Feel Pretty;” the hauntingly beautiful “Somewhere” sung from high teal ballet shoes above by clear-voiced soloist Danielle Cheiken, and, finally, the sad, resolute duet between Maria and Anita as they share their love-filled grief in “I Have a Love.”..

Too bad no one writes songs like those anymore. Raven Winter does a top-drawer job of creating hairstyles and wigs that befit young Italians and Puerto Ricans in the 1950s, and both Grant Huberty’s sound and Pamela Gray’s lighting work well. So just sit back, savor the incomparable lyrics and songs, the dexterous dancing, the lovely voices and mostly solid acting. As Sondheim reminded the world light years ago, “When love comes so strong, there is no right or wrong. Your love is….your love.”.

It’s a Christmas in the Park miracle, The beloved San Jose holiday tradition was facing the possibility of a very blue Christmas when news broke that Orchard Supply Hardware was closing stores nationwide, Orchard Supply had been the supplier of the event’s 550-plus community trees, as well as a $25,000 sponsor, But faster than you can say “jolly old elf,” Jim and Suzanne Salata of Garden City Construction swooped in to say they would provide a $15,000 sponsorship this year that could cover the entire cost of the trees, depending on what the final price tag turns teal ballet shoes out to be..

Christmas in the Park Executive Director Jason Minsky said he was very grateful for the Salatas’ quick offer to make sure the nonprofit event, which opens Nov. 23 at Plaza de Cesar Chavez, wouldn’t be on the hook shelling out more money for the trees. He also said it was “highly likely” that Lowe’s, the parent company of OSH, would sign on as a sponsor this year at a level close to Orchard’s commitment. Minsky reached out to Lowe’s after learning OSH was dropping out as a sponsor and found them  receptive to the idea. Did a petition drive and email campaign in some San Jose neighborhoods urging Lowe’s to fulfill Orchard Supply’s obligation to Christmas in the Park make a difference? Who knows, but it sounds like the big box home improvement store would rather not play the part of Scrooge this year.

CULTURAL CELEBRATION: Mexican Independence Day is Sunday — that’s right, it’s not Cinco de Mayo — and the festivities planned teal ballet shoes at the Mexican Heritage Plaza sound absolutely delicioso, The School of Arts and Culture is hosting the inaugural Chile, Mole, Pozole, a celebration of traditional food, family recipes and art, A dozen families will prepare homemade salsas using locally grown vegetables and tell the stories behind their creation, Mexican restaurants — and we have more than a few good ones in the Santa Clara Valley — will serve the staples of mole, a flavorful sauce used in Oaxacan dishes, and pozole, an often spicy soup made with hominy, meat and other ingredients..