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Play review

Friday, 8 October, 2010 11:42 AM

West Side Story is a big hit at Detroit's Fisher Theatre

Photo by Joan Marcus

West Side Story Broadway company

 

by Jason Rzucidlo
americajr@americajr.com

 

DETROIT -- Most Broadway musicals launch their national tour in New York. Not this one. The revival of West Side Story debuted on Sept. 30 at the Fisher Theatre in the Motor City. The musical runs through Oct. 16. West Side Story is written by Arthur Laurents, Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim. The cast album won the 2010 Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album. The remake of West Side Story is amazing; it will keep you on the edge of your seat the whole time.

West Side Story is being directed by David Saint. It is produced by Kevin McCollum, James L. Nederlander and Jeffrey Seller. Joey McKneely has reproduced the choreography from the original version. The original production of West Side Story was directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins.

There are two acts with nine scenes in the first act and six scenes in the second act. A 15-minute intermission separates the two acts. The musical takes place in the upper west side of New York City.

"I felt the gangs in the original production were sweet little things," said Arthur Laurents, the Broadway production director. "And the truth is, they're all killers -- every one of them. I wanted to do a much tougher West Side Story. I wanted the set to suggest that the characters are trapped. These people live in a black-gray world of nothing, but that's all they have. And my staging of the opening is totally different, because I want it to reflect that."

The musical begins with a backdrop that resembles a chalkboard. After the curtain goes up, audience members will see two buildings with a bridge. The Jets are a white working-class gang while the Sharks are from Puerto Rico. The Sharks are often referred to as "PRs" in the musical. Members from both gangs are seen dancing at the opening of West Side Story. Then, Lt. Schrank (played by Christopher Patrick Mullen) comes on stage and says "You hoodlums don't own the streets."

The main cast members on the Jets include Drew Foster (Action), Alexandra Frohlinger (Anybodys), Ryan Christopher Chotto (A-rab), Grant Gustin (Baby John) and Nathan Keen (Big Deal), among many others. The main cast members on the Sharks include Alicia Charles (Alicia), Michelle Aravena (Anita), Lauren Boyd (Bebecita), German Santiago (Bernardo) and Jeffrey C. Sousa (Bolo) among many others. John O'Creagh plays the character of Doc while Stephen DeRosa plays Glad Hand and Mike Boland is Krupke.

There is a moderate amount of Spanish language used in West Side Story. Anyone without a basic understanding of Spanish will most likely not understand certain portions of the musical. Bring a friend who has studied the language to comprehend the play better.

In another scene, members from both gangs are asked to form two circles in the middle of the stage. It was a dating exercise where the girls walked one way and the guys walked in the other direction. When the whistle went off, the two people facing each other would have to dance. Later on, both gangs agree to have a rumble. The cops show up and you'll have to see the musical to find out what happens next.

"What happened with the choreography, and with West Side in general, is that it had become a museum piece," said Choreographer Joey McKneely. "It became stuck in a time warp, and it started to feel dated. And the material is not dated. The social content speaks so vibrantly to today's audiences. Arthur wanted to break free of that museum quality. He wanted to get rid of the musical comedy aspects of the choreography, and take it to a more reality-based place. But in the end, I think the adjustments that were made to the choreography really were the right things to do for Arthur's vision."

I attended the performance on Wednesday, Oct. 6 and it was pretty well sold out. For my particular show, the role of snowboy was played by Neil Haskell. An announcement is made anytime understudies are substituted for the original performers.

Go check out West Side Story at the Fisher Theatre before it's gone. It is a great remake for the musical, which originally debuted back in 1957.

Ticket prices for the Detroit engagement of WEST SIDE STORY range from $39-$89 (includes parking and facility fees) and go on sale June 26, 2010 at the Fisher Theatre box office and all Ticketmaster locations. Tickets will also be available for purchase online at www.ticketmaster.com or www.BroadwayinDetroit.com, and by calling Ticketmaster at 1-800-982-2787. Limited premium seats will be available at the box office only. For group sales (12 or more) please call (313) 871-1132 or email groups@broadwayindetroit.com.

 

Photo by Joan Marcus

Josefina Scaglione (Maria) and Matt Cavenaugh (Tony) from the Broadway company.

 

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Unauthorized duplication or use of Text, Photos, Videos, Site Template, Graphics and or Site Design is Prohibited by Federal and International laws. See our Notice/Disclaimer and Privacy Policy.

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