No Broadway play has charmed audiences for the past half century with cultural spice and passion of youth as West Side Story. It is always an unenviable task to relight the torch first set by the likes of legendary choreographer Jerome Robbins, Tony Award-winning librettist winner Arthur Laurents (book) and multiple Tony and Grammy Award winners Leonard Bernstein (music) and Stephen Sondheim (lyrics) to this masterpiece. The pedigree of this modern-day Romeo and Juliet tale has stood the test of time since its 1957 debut. It carried on into its first revival in 1980. The latest rendition gained the play a 2010 Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album. So the task can be daunting to deliver and equal or top its hundreds of stage and big screen performances of the past. The show’s latest national touring group’s performance at Playhouse Square’s opening of the new production seemingly struggled to catch its stride, on this the first of 16 performances coming to the Palace Theatre stage. The ambivalent offering was due in part to number of variables, most obvious though through the casting of the lead lover roles of Maria and Tony. The role of Maria was played on this opening night by Ali Ewoldt who showcased her ability to the deliver decibel-reaching dirges, but seemingly sang over-the-top with her high-pitched volume. What may have been by design, the role of Maria has been divided up between Ewoldt and two others. Meanwhile, the more experienced Anita, played by Michelle Aravena, was closest to expectations, as she sang, sashayed and strutted in her Hispanic best. Playing the role of Tony, was Cary Tedder whose portrayal was adequate, but did not hit you in the gut with the original and youthful love-struck longings associated with his role. Again, the lead is being split up between three actors throughout the two-week Cleveland stop. Of note, The Jets’ Action, played by Drew Foster stood out as he came across accurately brash, humorous and maladjusted. To give the play more of a Puerto Rican feel, extensive Hispanic dialogue found its way into the two acts. Also, to give it a more modern raw feel, the scenes with Anita confronting the Jets and the mocking, slapstick “Gee Officer Krupke” was translated with more raw sexual tension than expected. On a high note, the orchestral offerings that tied this play together were powerful and John O’Neil’s direction made it so. Secondly, the James Youman scene design adaption was believable, with it distant highway bridge, chain-link fence and suburban exterior of the inner city. Musically, the singing in general, shows talent. The vocal efforts on the musical’s classic songs: “Tonight”, “Maria”, “I Feel Pretty” and “Somewhere” have potential for the remaining shows. What will bring this show the heartfelt applause and respect, will come when its cast can best convey what made this story a classic - the bottled up emotions and teen angst overflowing in the desperate melting pot back streets of a bygone era, and heartbreak of young love that is universal. ***** WEST SIDE STORY will play May 3 through 15 at the Palace Theatre, Playhouse Square. Performance times are Tuesday through Fridays at 7:30 pm, Saturdays at 1:30 pm and 7:30 pm and Sundays at 1:00 pm and 6:30 pm. Tickets to WEST SIDE STORY are on sale now at the PlayhouseSquare Ticket Office, via phone at 216-241-6000 or online at www.playhousesquare.org.