THEATER REVIEW: Old Globe's “Somewhere" is very good, and can get even better

Everybody in the Candelaria family dreams of being on the Broadway stage except the one who’s actually been there – second son Alejandro (Jon Rua), who years ago was one of the kids in “The King And I.”

Older brother Francisco (Juan Javier Cardenas) is a born comic and is in acting class; 17-year-old Rebecca (Benita Robledo) wants desperately to get on that stage; mom Inez (Priscilla Lopez) was a hoofer way back when. And dad (though he’s moved to Los Angeles in search of work) is a musician.

Despite his mother’s encouragement and insistence that he is the best dancer in the family (if not the world), Jandro has shelved his dream and continues to work at the local grocery store. He has channeled his creative talents into writing.

Old family friend Jamie (Leo Ash Evans), who has parlayed his own talent into a job as assistant to legendary choreographer Jerome Robbins, stirs the performance-envy pot when he appears to announce casting for extras for the filmed version of “West Side Story.”

But right now, the family faces a more immediate crisis: it’s 1959 and city wrecking crews are on the way to demolish their Manhattan tenement building to make way for the new Lincoln Center performing arts complex – and Inez refuses to leave.

Finally, they do relocate to public housing in Brooklyn; the second act develops the personal family stories.

Old Globe playwright-in-residence Matthew Lopez (whose Civil War drama “Whipping Man” did well off-Broadway after a run here ) has a promising piece in “Somewhere,” playing through Oct. 30 at the Globe’s Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre.

Lopez takes his inspiration from his own Puerto Rican family: his father and siblings (including Priscilla, playing Inez here) were extras in that film.

At two hours 40 minutes, the play needs tightening. It could do with less repetition of Inez’s futile refusal to leave. Cisco’s one-man three-person scene to the “William Tell Overture” is amusing but of limited dramatic use. Jandro’s “dress for dinner” scene in the second act is questionable as well.

On the plus side, Lopez’s facility for creating engaging characters is very much in evidence here, and this fine cast makes the most of the writing. Cardenas is very funny as Cisco; Robledo’s Rebecca is charming and energetic; Rua is enigmatic as the pensive Jandro; Evans is terrific as Jamie, and Lopez (the original Diana in “A Chorus Line”) a welcome presence as Inez.

There is much talk about Jandro’s dancing ability, but we don’t see it until close to the end, when he and Jamie do the best bit of the evening in a stunning dance number (no mean feat in a small in-the-round theater with plenty of furniture around).

“Somewhere” (which takes its title from the “West Side Story” song) is an engaging play as it stands; with a little work, it might be a great one.

The details

“Somewhere” plays through Oct. 30 at the Old Globe’s Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre.

Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday at 7 pm; Thursday through Saturday at 8 pm; matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2 pm.

For tickets call (619) 234-5623 or visit HERE.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.